Mona Shield Payne
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | 1:55 p.m.
Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura’s lawsuit against Clark County commissioners is on hold while he appeals the case to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Bonaventura’s lawyers were expected to argue for a permanent injunction Tuesday morning to prevent implementation of a measure passed by commissioners last month to abolish the Las Vegas constable’s office starting in 2015.
But Bonaventura’s legal team filed a last-minute motion Monday appealing the case to the Nevada Supreme Court.
The move came as a surprise to Clark County District Court Judge Rob Bare and two deputy district attorneys representing the county prepared for a long hearing Tuesday morning.
“We were expecting to move forward with the hearing today. Once again, we’ve had this late notice of a change of plans from the plaintiff,” said Deputy District Attorney Robert Gower, referencing a first hearing in the case for which he had only a few hours to prepare after Bonaventura’s lawyer filed a last-minute motion.
As a result of the appeal, Tuesday’s hearing was stayed indefinitely, putting Bonvaentura’s lawsuit on hold until the Supreme Court acts.
Bonaventura’s lead attorney, Kenneth Frizzell, said he filed the appeal because he expected the case ultimately would have wound up at the Supreme Court, even if the hearing had taken place Tuesday.
“My initial discussions with the two district attorneys were essentially, it’s going to get appealed either way,” Frizzell said.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the constitutionality of a state statute giving county commissioners the power to abolish constable’s offices in their jurisdictions.
During a hearing last month, Bare hinted that he thinks the law is constitutional and in court documents filed two weeks ago, he wrote that several of Frizzell’s arguments had “no clear likelihood of success.”
With an unfavorable decision looming, Frizzell said, he appealed the case to expedite its progress through the legal system in hopes of resolving it before next year’s elections.
“We’ve got to get this up in front of (the Supreme Court) and we didn’t want to wait,” he said.
The appeal filed Monday challenges a ruling made earlier this month by Bare, who denied a preliminary injunction against Clark County. Bare initially scheduled Tuesday’s hearing for more arguments and to consider the merits of a permanent injunction.
Commissioners last month unanimously voted to abolish the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office after repeated instances of questionable behavior by Bonaventura and his deputies.
Since Bonaventura was elected in 2010, the office has been dogged by controversies including allegations of sexual harassment, the filming of a profanity-laced reality television show pilot and engaging in lawsuits against constable’s offices in other jurisdictions.
Frizzell argues that Bonaventura is being targeted for personal reasons by commissioners and that they violated open meeting laws when deciding to abolish the constable’s office.
“They don’t like John and they want to try and short circuit the process,” Frizzell said of commissioners.