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Judge asks Nevada Supreme Court to dismiss ethics charges

Updated September 25, 2020 - 5:42 pm

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson appealed to the state’s highest court Friday, saying she should not be punished for efforts to protect her daughter from the threat of sex trafficking.

Lawyers for Tobiasson asked the Supreme Court to dismis allegations from the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline that she interfered in a murder investigation after she urged Metropolitan Police Department detectives to investigate a clothing store that she believed was a front for a drug and prostitution ring.

“We as citizens and voters would castigate judges who don’t report criminal activity,” Tobiasson’s lawyers, Marc Cook and Thomas Sheets, wrote in court briefs. “A commission on Judicial Discipline should applaud a judge who calls out sex trafficking not attempt to excoriate her.”

The commission claims that Tobiasson violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct and abused “the prestige of judicial office to advance” her personal interests.

Tobiasson’s reports went unchecked by police, according to her lawyers, and a 2016 double homicide later was linked to the business known as “Top Knotch.”

Cook and Sheets also argued in a 52-page petition to the Supreme Court that the judicial oversight panel’s Aug. 31 charges against Tobiasson were leveled too long after the commission received a complaint.

“The Commission has acted so recklessly that they have violated multiple statutory limitations and disregarded Petitioner’s fundamental rights as a parent, a citizen and as a judge,” the lawyers wrote.

Tobiasson’s attorneys also referred to Paul Deyhle as the commission’s “hydra-headed” executive director, arguing that he should not also be able to serve as a general counsel, complaining witness and chief administrative officer for the same organization.

“It’s like a spider web,” they wrote. “The circularity and hidden nature of the procedure creates a maze designed to trap Petitioner, a judge, through the use of a deeply flawed process with virtually no consideration given to the fact that the judge is also a mother who has fears and concerns for her daughter’s well-being.”

Deyhle has not responded to phone messages from the Las Vegas Review-Journal regarding Tobiasson’s response to the allegations. Metro officials have declined to discuss the case. The judge’s lawyers have pointed to unpublished reports from a homicide detective who said Tobiasson did not interfere in Metro’s investigation into the slayings of Sydney Land and Nehemiah “Neo” Kauffman.

Tobiasson’s lawyers also pointed out that the commission conducted a second investigation into the judge after an initial probe “found no cause for discipline.” The ultimate result was a formal statement of charges that included “allegations of no substance but criticizing her parenting” and “irrelevant, immaterial and extraneous (and inaccurate) information,” the lawyers wrote.

While the judge had spoken to journalists about her concerns before the ethics charges came down, her lawyers also accused the commission of publicizing details about the ethics case that would have otherwise been confidential.

“This was a fugitive filing of a false narrative,” the lawyers continued. “It was specifically prepared like a press release and not a legal complaint in a punitive and knowingly reckless manner to emasculate the statutory provisions restricting the publication of such information.”

Cook said he filed a 70-page response to the commission’s allegations on Monday, asking the panel to throw out the charges. But that response had not been posted on the commission’s website as of Friday afternoon, and that is part of the reason for the appeal to the Supreme Court.

He also said he did not expect a fair hearing from the commission.

“The callous and arrogant manner in which these charges have been filed suggests that this hearing will include consistent efforts to bring information not related to any actual violations but continue the effort to, in a public hearing, embarrass and damage the reputation of the Petitioner and her family if the same is allowed to proceed,” the lawyers wrote.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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