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EDITORIAL: Clark County judge openly defies the state’s highest court

District Judge Erika Ballou has a knack for generating controversy. Her recent misstep with the Nevada Supreme Court raises questions about her fitness for the bench.

Clark County voters elected Judge Ballou to her position in Department 24 in 2020. She previously served 15 years as a Las Vegas public defender. In that capacity, she gained national attention in 2016 when she refused to comply with a judge’s request that she remove a Black Lives Matter pin from her lapel while in the courtroom.

Following her ascendancy to the bench, Judge Ballou found the spotlight again. In July 2022, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association called for her resignation, arguing she had made disparaging comments about law enforcement. A video the union released revealed the judge telling a defendant that because he was a “Black man in America, you know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are.”

The fumbles didn’t end there. In January, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline hit Judge Ballou with two charges involving inappropriate social media posts, one of which stemmed from a photo and crude caption posted on Facebook showing her in a hot tub with two public defenders. The charges involve violations of rules governing the “independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Judge Ballou has expressed little remorse. In response to the commission’s action, she defiantly posted lyrics to a profane Cardy B song, the Law &Crime website reported. But she may have a more difficult time brushing off the latest imbroglio.

This month, the state Supreme Court took the unusual step of ordering the removal of Judge Ballou from a criminal case featuring a woman convicted of two violent felonies a decade ago. In 2021, Judge Ballou approved the woman’s release from prison before she completed her 10-year sentence, ruling that certain factors were not properly weighed at the original trial, according to Law &Crime.

Prosecutors appealed the decision, and the state high court reversed the ruling in 2022. Yet Judge Ballou took no action and the woman remained free.

Last year, the high court issued another order on the matter, which Judge Ballou also ignored, prompting the justices to bounce her from the case. “The walls are closing in on the District Court that is shockingly refusing to do its job,” Supreme Court Justice Douglas Herndon wrote.

Judge Ballou’s personal peccadilloes and penchant for social activism are one thing. Blatantly flouting the orders of the state’s highest judicial authority is quite another. No District Court judge is above review. If Judge Ballou arrogantly believes it’s appropriate to defy checks in place to ensure judicial accountability, she doesn’t belong in such a position of public trust.

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