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Love a Judge

January 11, 2012 permalink

Las Vegas prosecutor Lisa Willardson found the sure way to win her cases. She got involved in a romantic relationship with the judge, referring to him in an email as the "honorable (and freakin' HOT) Steven E Jones." When the affair came to light, judge Jones barred two whistleblowing prosecutors from his courtroom. While Willardson has been suspended, judge Jones is still on the bench, hearing family law cases.



Relationship with prosecutor hasn't curtailed embattled Judge Jones

Steven E Jones
Steven Jones

Amid a legal uproar over his romance with a fired prosecutor who appeared before him, Family Court Judge Steven Jones continues to handle a normal child welfare caseload.

Concerns about a rift between the judge and the district attorney's office over the relationship with former Deputy District Attorney Lisa Willardson were aired Friday at a regular meeting of Family Court judges attended by Chief District Judge Jennifer Togliatti.

But no administrative action was taken to ease the tense conflict.

"They don't want to make a knee-jerk reaction," District Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said Tuesday. "They want to look at all the facts and circumstances before they make an informed decision."

Longtime child advocate Donna Coleman said Tuesday that she's not surprised that Jones is still hearing child welfare cases.

"He's part of the good old boy network," said Coleman, a former member of Nevada's Standing Committee on Judicial Ethics. "He has been there a long time. He has a lot of support from some of the other judges."

Coleman, however, said Jones has "lost the confidence of the public."

"Until this is resolved," she added, "his relationship with the district attorney's office, whoever the new district attorney is going to be, is now tainted, and it's not in the children's best interest for him to remain on the bench in child welfare cases."

Attorney James Jimmerson, who represents Jones, countered: "The fact that Judge Jones retains his child welfare caseload reflects his excellence as a jurist in this field.

"He not only is viewed as able and fair by his judicial colleagues, but recently, despite this controversy, he received a 70 percent retention vote of support from the Las Vegas Review-Journal survey of lawyers appearing in front of him."

The judge's conflict with prosecutors erupted in the waning days of the administration of former District Attorney David Roger, who has said he felt pressured by Jones to keep Willardson in the child welfare unit after the involvement between the judge and the prosecutor was brought to light.

Jones, 53, issued an order banning from his courtroom Michelle Edwards and Janne Hanrahan, the two deputy district attorneys who helped expose the relationship on Oct. 28. But he contended that he does not have a bias against the rest of the district attorney's office.

Roger, however, filed a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline over the judge's conduct stemming from the relationship. The district attorney's office also filed a complaint with the State Bar of Nevada against Willardson, who was fired Dec. 13. Both agencies are investigating.

Roger, who retired Jan. 3, also launched a grand jury investigation into allegations both Jones and Willardson lied in sworn affidavits about the extent of their romantic involvement.

Grand jury-approved subpoenas have been issued seeking cellphone records dating to October for both Jones and Willardson, courthouse sources said this week.

In their affidavits, Jones and Willardson, 43, said under oath that they didn't start dating until November, after she was removed from prosecuting cases before the judge. But emails from Willardson's office computer showed the relationship might have begun while she was appearing before Jones.

In an Oct. 26 email to two lawyers, Willardson admitted she was in a dating relationship with Jones.

That same day, she referred to Jones in an email to his law clerk as the "honorable (and freakin' HOT) Steven E. Jones."

Other emails from Oct. 17 to Oct. 20 show Willardson and Jones flirting with each other as they set up a lunch date and discussed it afterward.

The rift between Jones and the district attorney's office also is playing out in a child welfare case. Prosecutors have filed a motion seeking to remove Jones from the case because of his "personal bias" against Edwards and Hanrahan.

Togliatti assigned District Judge Mark Denton to hear the matter, and he has summoned both sides to his courtroom on Thursday.

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal

Addendum: On December 26, 2013 judge Jones found the lifeless body of Lisa Willardson at her home, but waited 35 minutes to call 911. Even that was not enough to get him off the bench. In February the judge was finally suspended for non-disclosure.



Another complaint against Judge Steven Jones moving forward

Steven E Jones
The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline is moving forward with a new complaint against suspended Family Court Judge Steven Jones.
John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline is moving forward with another complaint against suspended Family Court Judge Steven Jones.

Paul Deyhle, the commission’s executive director, said Tuesday that Jones has 30 days to answer the complaint, and the commission will then meet to decide whether to file a formal statement of charges against the judge.

The case, launched in 2006, includes allegations Jones was involved in several investment schemes, associated with ex-felons, improperly handled drug evidence and once had an “intimate relationship” with a law student who worked for him.

Jones, 56, who was first elected to the Family Court bench in 1992, went to the Nevada Supreme Court to block the investigation, but the high court last month refused to do it.

The allegations are separate from charges the commission sustained against Jones in December that were tied to his handling of an affair with the late former prosecutor Lisa Willardson while she appeared before him.

The commission suspended Jones without pay for three months Feb. 3 after finding his relationship with Willardson violated rules of conduct for judges because he didn’t disclose it.

The Clark County coroner ruled Willardson’s death an accident. She had a combination of lethal anti-anxiety and sleeping medications in her system, the coroner concluded.

Jones and his lead lawyer, James J. Jimmerson, sought relief in the 2006 case from the high court on grounds the commission violated the statute of limitations and his due process rights when it waited until July 2012 to formally inform Jones of the investigation.

But the Supreme Court concluded that the judge’s rights were not prejudiced by the commission investigation and the court’s intervention was not warranted at this time.

The court said Jones could lodge an appeal if the judicial commission takes further action against him.

Jimmerson could not be reached for comment Tuesday on the commission’s decision to move forward with the 2006 case.

Jones is accused in the case of participating in the investment schemes as far back as 1996 and that one of the felons he dealt with was his former brother-in-law, Thomas Cecrle.

Federal authorities consider Cecrle the central figure in a $3 million investment scheme with Jones that occurred between 2002 and 2012. The two men were indicted by a federal grand jury in the scheme with four others in October 2012. They are to stand trial June 3.

The judicial commission case also alleges Jones tried to pressure his former bailiff, Robin Whisman, into loaning another felon, Victor Hancock, $18,000 in 2004 and 2005.

Jones also is accused of having an “intimate relationship” in 2002 with Michelle Taylor, a law student working for him.

She married after the relationship ended, and Jones several years later allowed her to practice in his courtroom without disclosing the old relationship with her, according to the proposed complaint.

Another allegation involves marijuana submitted as evidence by an attorney in a January 2007 child custody case before Jones.

According to the complaint, Jones took the marijuana home, where his then-girlfriend Amy McNair smoked the evidence.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal

Addendum: The judge was sentenced to two years in jail, but not for family court matters.



Ex-Family Court Judge Steven Jones sentenced to prison for fraud

Steven Jones
Suspended Las Vegas area family court judge Steven Jones, right, walks out of federal court with his attorney Robert Draskovich Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in Las Vegas. Jones pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a decade-long investment scheme that prosecutors alleged reaped some $3 million.
John Locher / AP

A former longtime Clark County Family Court judge who pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges has been sentenced to more than two years in prison and ordered to pay $2.9 million in restitution to dozens of victims of the investment scheme.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer A. Dorsey sentenced 57-year-old old Steven Jones to 26 months in prison Wednesday after he admitted bilking more than 50 investors out of millions for nearly a decade.

Jones resigned from the bench and was disbarred in December after pleading guilty to his role in the conspiracy.

Prosecutors say investors were tricked with false promises they could buy and sell water rights worth millions as part of a secret government program.

Instead, prosecutors say Jones and others spent the money on gambling and their own living expenses.

Source: Las Vegas Sun