Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

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Beleaguered Clark County judge draws three-month suspension

Judge Steve Jones

Judge Steve Jones

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline today suspended Clark County District Judge Steven Jones for three months without pay for sitting on cases in which his girlfriend-attorney represented the county.

It also issued a public sanction for Jones.

In its decision, the commission said it considered Jones’ lack of a prior discipline and his exemplary work as a judge for 20 years.

But it said the conduct of Jones “involved two separate branches of the Clark County government, and caused the disruption of the entire judicial system, the unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars and judicial resources.” The decision said the behavior “caused the cancellation of court calendars which profoundly affected numerous Nevada families during the holidays.”

The commission conducted a full-day hearing into the matter Jan. 27, listening to arguments on what the penalty should be. Jones asked for mercy.

Jones had filed for re-election and faced five challengers. At his disciplinary hearing he told the commission he would withdraw from the race, which he did.

The commission in December found Jones guilty of eight counts of violating judicial rules that require a judge not to permit social and other relationships to influence his actions.

Jones presided over child-welfare cases in which his girlfriend Deputy District Attorney Lisa Ann Willardson represented Clark County. And Jones refused motions to step aside in these cases in the last three months of 2011.

Willardson has since died.

The commission said Jones “neglected to recuse himself from further participation in any of Ms. Willardson’s cases and confronted the District Attorney’s office staff when they tried to transfer Ms. Willardson out of his courtroom.”

The commission said Jones clearly violated the code of conduct for judges.

Jones had carried his fight to the Nevada Supreme Court, challenging the allegations and the authority of the discipline commission to go forward. But he lost.

The commission suspended Jones from sitting on cases in November 2012 after he was indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged involvement in a $3 million swindling scheme. He has continued to draw his $200,000 annual salary.

His trial on federal charges is scheduled to begin later this year. He and five others are accused of luring people to invest money in a high-yield return. The indictment said Jones advised unhappy investors that the program was legitimate and he worked to prevent legal actions.

He reportedly shared in the profits. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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