Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson went on Channel 8 news earlier this month to say she fears some police and prosecutors are protecting pimps at the expense of their competitors and public safety. The judge said on TV that information she gave Metro officers on an alleged prostitution and crime ring fell on deaf ears, with potentially deadly results.
Now, Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo and District Attorney Steve Wolfson are asking Chief Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure to remove Tobiasson from criminal cases, alleging she has a conflict.
A source confirms Lombardo, Wolfson, Assistant DAs Robert Daskas, Chris Lalli and Chris LaRochelle met secretly with Bonaventure last week.
When asked about the incident, Wolfson said “I’m not going to talk about that with you!”
A spokeswoman for Metro says Sheriff Lombardo will neither comment on the meeting nor disclose Tobiasson’s alleged conflict.
Both Lombardo and Wolfson are running for re-election.
Tobiasson is not alone in her concerns about Metro. Lombardo has acknowledged a four-year-long FBI investigation into the Vice Department, initially reported by my former Channel 8 colleague George Knapp.
Judge Tobiasson acknowledged she learned of the meeting after the fact but declined to comment. She is still hearing criminal cases.
Judge Bonaventure has not responded to requests for comment.
Las Vegas Justice Court administrator Kim Kampling says she was unaware of the meeting. Kampling says this is the first time in her three years in Justice Court that she’s heard of elected officials lobbying a chief judge regarding another judge’s caseload and said she needed to research whether such an action is appropriate.
Nevada law gives chief judges authority to assign caseloads. The law also gives parties the ability to file a motion with a chief judge requesting the removal of a judge from a case.
Boyd Law School Professor Jeffrey Stempel says there’s nothing wrong with challenging a judge as long as it’s done by a legal motion that gives notice to the judge in question.
“That’s crazy,” Stempel said of the ex parte meeting. “The judge who is accused has to be notified.”