Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Demonstrators to protest Family Court judges

The organizer of a daylong demonstration today seeking changes in the Clark County Family Court system is expecting at least 50 people to deliver this message: "We don't trust our courts."

Juli T. Star-Alexander, executive director of the nonprofit corporation Redress Inc., said the need to hold judges accountable for their decisions will be the focus of the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. demonstration at the Family Court House at Bonanza and Pecos roads.

"The abusiveness over there (Family Court) has become rampant," Star-Alexander said. "Judges are making decisions based on the color of the underwear they're wearing on a given day and not based on the evidence. We, as citizens, need to hold our judges accountable."

Family Court Administrator Brian Gilmore said citizens already hold judges accountable -- every six years when they go to the polls to elect them.

Gilmore said citizens who believe a judge has acted improperly also can file a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline.

The demonstration comes in conjunction with the airing of "Breaking the Silence -- Children's Stories," a Public Broadcasting Service report about dysfunction in the nation's family court system.

The program is about children traumatized by the system's handling of their cases and families "revictimized by the court systems."

It also documents the frequency with which abusers win custody of their children in family court, and explores why this continues to occur.

The show is to be broadcast at 2 p.m. Sunday on the local PBS affiliate KLVX Channel 10.

Gilmore said that while he applauds the demonstrators for exercising their rights, he is concerned because he doesn't believe the situations explored in the show are representative of issues facing Clark County Family Court.

He said the local Family Court is considered one of the best in the country and that officials from as far away as Russia and Norway have visited it to learn how to improve their systems.

The local judges are "some of the most devoted public servants in Clark County," he said.

Star-Alexander disagreed and said judicial accountability has become an even more volatile issue recently because of one judge: Cheryl Moss.

Moss, who has been a Family Court judge since 2000, was blamed in the death of 12-year-old Syber Wells. The boy shot himself on Aug. 26 with a loaded gun that his father, Geoffrey Wells, allegedly left available.

During the custody battle between Syber's parents, the boy's mother and her lawyer had told Moss that Geoffrey Wells' home was a dangerous place for Syber and his two younger siblings because of the loaded guns in the home.

Moss ruled that custody of the boys would alternate between the parents.

Moss also was in the news in June when she was accused of favoring lawyers who contribute to her campaigns.

Star-Alexander said demonstrators have been asked to share their opinions on Moss and "other judges whom you may feel are inadequate."

Some protesters have complaints about "court bias toward court users without attorney representation, or regarding costs to use the courts," she said.

Star-Alexander said one woman whose custody case has been sealed plans to wear a burka to represent how she has been silenced by a family court judge's decision to seal the case without a stated reason.

Other demonstrators with active cases plan to wear Halloween masks because they are afraid judges will retaliate against them in the future, Star-Alexander said.

Gilmore said that allegation is "absolutely absurd."

Matt Pordum can be reached at 455-4844 or at [email protected]

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