Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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Marren punishment not likely to please litigants

The reprimand Clark County Family Court Judge Terrance Marren is expected to receive for taking too long to grant three divorces only adds insult to injury, angry litigants said.

The three Las Vegas cases languished in court for up to two years before Marren granted the divorces. He agreed he should have ruled sooner, and said he has created a checks-and-balances system within his department to avoid future delays.

The Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission heard final testimony Thursday and is expected to issue a ruling within 10 days. The commission's action was prompted by complaints filed by Clark County residents Vincent Lombardo, Sharon Heyborne and another couple, the Breitenfeldts, who did not attend the hearing.

Lombardo and Heyborne's mother say the anticipated slap of Marren's hand is too light a punishment, considering the emotional trauma and expenses they have endured.

"I am sick and tired of my kids having to suffer every time the judge screwed up," said Lombardo, whose divorce was granted nine months after it was submitted.

Lombardo said his two daughters' college fund was depleted because he had to pay $30,000 in legal bills, an amount that amazed Discipline Commission members.

"I'm not trying to heap abuse on you, but it alarms me that a divorce -- this isn't Elizabeth Taylor or somebody --" would take so long, Commissioner Alan Lefebvre, a Las Vegas lawyer, told Marren.

The judge replied that in contentious cases such as Lombardo's, new issues kept cropping up.

Heyborne's divorce took 11 months to decide.

The Breitenfeldt divorce took 19 months.

Marren's attorney, Steve Wolfson, said the judge's contribution to the Clark County judicial system is valuable. He praised Marren as "one of the best in Clark County," but acknowledged that his past actions warranted punishment.

This was not the first time Marren has been publicly criticized. His decision to award guardianship of a 16-year-old to the parents of her boyfriend generated community outrage and the Legislature toughened the law as a result.

Among the estimated 20 people who watched Wednesday's hearing was a core group of women whose voices have been the most strident and condemning against Family Court.

"They're whitewashing the issue," litigant Shirley La Spina said. "What about the people who are most hurt by this?"

The group remains committed to the removal of Marren and other Family Court judges.