UPDATE, 5/27/20: We have updated the site with a recent Supreme Court order about a District Court judge on the ballot. If there are developments before the primary about other candidates or incumbents, we will similarly update. And we hope that you, dear readers, will let us know if you hear of something before we do.
I am proud to announce that today The Nevada Independent has unveiled the first iteration of the most comprehensive look at judicial candidates in state history.
For many years, I, along with most voters, have been frustrated by the dearth of information provided about judges and candidates for the bench. And even as I have been issuing pronouncements through the decades about voters getting more informed, I, too, have come across judicial races with contenders I knew little about when I cast my ballot.
Even if you believe, as I do, that judges should not run for office, this is the universe we live in, and we at The Indy want to make that universe better.
So, as I have written, we sent detailed questionnaires to all of the judicial candidates on the primary ballot. The questions were suggested by a team of some of the best lawyers in Clark County, from former Speaker Barbara Buckley to veteran Don Campbell (who also happens to be my lawyer). I will tell you more about that team — and another one we are assembling — at a later date.
I was gratified by the 60 percent return rate by judges and candidates and by the appreciation almost all of them showed for what we are doing. A few dozen did not return the questionnaires, and I have listed their names below.
We gave the candidates a couple of weeks to respond, so there was plenty of time. We did not edit replies for grammar or typos.
We only have one goal here: To give voters the information they need to make good decisions at the polls. The Indy does not endorse candidates, and we will not assign ratings.
There are limitations on any project such as this one. And while I am glad that we took it on, I am disappointed in external constraints over which we had no control and make this first iteration less than I would have liked it to be.
Our process was supposed to have been this: 1. We send and receive the candidate questionnaires. 2. We have our team of legal experts analyze the responses. 3. We assign law students at Boyd School of Law, which is our partner in this endeavor, to research cases or sort out issues and red flags our team has found. 4. Our team takes another look and helps put things in context, judging the seriousness of allegations, sanctions, reversals. 5. We publish our team’s notes and remarks about that context on the candidate’s information page, along with the questionnaire.
Alas, circumstances beyond our control have intervened. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the secretary of state to call for an all-mail primary, and as you read this tens of thousands of voters in Clark County already have returned ballots. So before too many more people voted in the dark, we decided to post what we have: the questionnaires and any writing samples candidates provided.
It ain’t nothing, but it’s not as much as we wanted. It’s still much more information than voters ever had at their disposal. For that, I am thrilled.
We will do even better for the general election. And we will do better next cycle and the cycle after that. This is new ground being tilled, and we will strive year after year to produce better crops.
As always, we want feedback from our readers, especially ones with unique knowledge of judges or candidates. What is missing? What did a candidate say that isn’t true? What red flags do you see?
This is a living, evolving document. We know it is far from perfect. We want your help, need your help. If you see anything, please let me know. I’m at [email protected]
Finally, I want you to know that this project would not be possible not only without the help of the lawyers who saw the need for what we are doing, but for a few Indyites who deserve special mention.
Our chief technical officer, C.J. Keeney, worked long hours to get the site ready for what you see today; I have never been more grateful to have him on board.
He was assisted by the consistently superb design skills of Peter Vogt and our all-around jill-of-all-trades Stasy Shipman, who helped do what she does every day: Check our work, proofread every word and make suggestions for improvements.
And the entire package was, as usual, overseen by my indispensable No. 2, Elizabeth Thompson, who kept everyone, including a wayward editor, on track.
Thank you to all of them.
Here is the list of candidates who did not return our forms — some did not even give us the courtesy of a response and one or two cited judicial canons as a reason not to fill them out, which must come as news to the sitting Supreme Court justice and District Court judges who did:
Judge William Kephart
Tara Clark Newberry
Cheryl Ann Wingate
Update, 8:25 AM, 5/19/20: I updated with three more candidates who did not return their forms.
Update, 5:25 PM, 5/2/20 to reflect that Thomas Christensen sent in his response.