Press association head challenges secret state Supreme Court actions
NEVADA — Nevada Press Association President Ande Engleman filed a complaint in mid- October with the state Judicial Discipline Commission in response to a secret state Supreme Court decision to remove a case from the docket and stop disciplinary proceedings against a state judge. Engleman wants to open and unseal the proceedings and protect reporters from having to reveal sources.
Last summer the commission began to investigate Washoe County District Judge Jerry Whitehead, a former law partner of a state Supreme Court justice, after a dozen complaints were filed against him. Whitehead asked the court to intervene and rule that the commission lacked jurisdiction. After the jurisdiction hearing was set for Oct. 4, the justices sealed the file and ordered the court clerk to take personal custody of it.
According to AP, Justices Tom Steffen and Charles Springer “reportedly favored Whitehead’s position, while Chief Justice Robert Rose and Justice Miriam Shearing were neutral.” Whitehead’s former law partner, Cliff Young, recused himself. In late September, Rose went out of town, leaving a majority of two judges who granted Whitehead’s motion to remove the jurisdictional hearing from the docket. The discipline commission proceedings are stayed until the jurisdictional question is settled and no new hearing date has been set.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the state Supreme Court ordered the commission to turn over to Whitehead all of its evidence and testimony. Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Review-Journal, said in an editorial, “They gagged everyone who knew anything. They even stripped the name of the judge from the case file and told the discipline panel to reveal all of its witnesses to the accused judge.”
Mitchell in the same editorial quotes Justice Steffen, “No such case has any public existence. You are talking about a subject that if it exists, there is no honorable way I can indicate to you that any such case exists.”
(In re Petition for a Writ of Prohibition or in the Alternative for a Writ of Mandamus; Ande Engleman, pro se, Reno)