Court dismisses Lombardo ethics case on ‘technicality,’ attorneys intend to appeal
A Carson City judge in early January dismissed a lawsuit filed by Gov. Joe Lombardo challenging a decision from the Nevada Commission on Ethics to censure and fine the governor for using his Clark County sheriff uniform and badge on the 2022 campaign trail — but attorneys for Lombardo said they were unaware of the court’s order until Wednesday and plan to appeal.
Judge James Russell’s order, which ethics commission attorneys were also unaware of until Tuesday, dismissed the appeal on procedural grounds. His order stated that Lombardo’s attorneys failed to “comply with statutory procedural requirements” of serving the lawsuit to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office within 45 days of notifying the ethics commission that they intended to appeal the decision to censure and fine the Republican governor $20,000 last year.
An attorney for the ethics commission filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on Dec. 7, with legal arguments largely based on the failure to serve the Attorney General’s Office with a lawsuit. Russell granted the ethics commission’s motion to dismiss the case on Jan. 2. In a Wednesday court filing, the ethics commission attorney wrote in a footnote that the commission was unaware that the order had been granted until Tuesday when attorneys checked the case docket, saw a dismissal had been granted and then found a copy of it in their physical mail.
The ethics commission's attorneys then notified Lombardo’s attorneys of the dismissal on Wednesday.
J. Colby Williams and Sam Mirkovich, two of the attorneys representing Lombardo, said the dismissal was “not based on the merits, but a technicality” and that they planned to appeal the case, in large part because the Attorney General’s Office had “previously and indisputably recused itself from the case.”
“We respectfully, but firmly, believe the District Court’s ruling is legally erroneous and an abuse of discretion. We intend to file an immediate appeal this week,” Williams and Mirkovich said in an emailed statement.
Both the motion to dismiss and judge’s order cite a state law that stipulates any petition for a judicial review over an administrative agency’s decision must be served to the administrative agency in question and the Attorney General’s Office — which serves as legal representation for all executive branch agencies, including the governor’s office.
Court filings show the Attorney General’s Office entered into a contract with an outside law firm to represent the ethics commission in the case, writing in a contract that the office had “determined that providing legal services to the Commission would constitute a conflict of interest.” The contract was approved in January, but was backdated to the start of 2023.
“We have had — and will continue to have — no involvement in legal representation regarding this matter,” a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said in a Wednesday email. “As such, we will refrain from commenting.”
Editor’s Note: Campbell & Williams, the law firm representing Gov. Joe Lombardo in this case, has in the past provided The Nevada Independent with pro bono legal services and advice.