Las Vegas Sun

March 20, 2019

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Judge accused of abusive conduct in criminal case

CARSON CITY -- A special prosecutor for the state Judicial Discipline Commission on Wednesday accused a justice of the peace in Douglas County of "abusive and demeaning" conduct in handling the criminal case of the son of a former Nevada Supreme Court justice.

Prosecutor Mary Boetsch told the commission that Justice of the Peace Jim EnEarl should not be thrown off the bench but should be punished for his behavior toward Joseph Manoukian, who was sentenced in 2001 to jail, where he hanged himself five days later.

Manoukian, 27, was the son of former Supreme Court Justice Noel Manoukian, who now practices law in Douglas County. Manoukian sat through the two-hour hearing but did not testify.

John Springgate, EnEarl's attorney, told the commission that the justice of the peace did not show any bias against Manoukian. He said no improprieties were exhibited by the judge and that he should not be disciplined.

District Judge Mark Denton of Las Vegas, who presided over the hearing, said a decision would be issued later within the 20 days allowed by law. It was not revealed who filed the complaint against EnEarl.

Joseph Manoukian pleaded guilty in 2001 to misdemeanor charges involving drug use and bad checks. He was placed in an alternative sentencing program by EnEarl and was required to make restitution and get a job.

He was ordered back to EnEarl's court when he did not get a job. He failed to make the first scheduled appearance May 18, 2001, and then was late for the second appearance May 21. A bench warrant was issued and he was arrested. He later appeared in court May 24.

Boetsch said EnEarl revoked the probation and sentenced him to jail without the presence of Manoukian's court-appointed attorney, Mike Roeser. She said EnEarl made disparaging remarks to Manoukian, telling him he was "fed up" with Manoukian's behavior and that Manoukian "is starting to offend me."

Boetsch said the justice of the peace showed a "personal animus" toward Manoukian.

Boetsch said EnEarl also considered ex parte evidence in which the justice of the peace heard from an outside source about Manoukian's behavior without a Manoukian representative present.

Springgate admitted that EnEarl should have required an attorney to be present when the decision was made to send the 27-year-old man to jail. He said that was a legal error that was subject to a judicial appeal, not a cause for discipline for misconduct.

Springgate argued EnEarl was entitled to say he was "fed up" with Manoukian's behavior after he failed to show up twice for scheduled court hearings and hadn't gotten a job. But he said there was no showing of bias.

Springgate also argued there was no evidence there was any ex-parte communication between the judge and others about the case.

At the May 24, 2001, hearing Manoukian told the judge he had a job but had to get evidence that was among his belongings at the jail to prove it. But the judge revoked his probation and sentenced him to jail for six months.