64°F
weather icon Clear

City’s motion to disqualify judge denied

Updated December 20, 2018 - 8:53 am

A District Court judge denied Boulder City’s motion to disqualify Judge Richard Scotti in a case involving a former resident’s crosswalk protest because the city did not bring forward a substantive reason.

The city sought to negate Scotti’s Oct. 29 written order that said it vindictively prosecuted former Boulder City resident John Hunt, who was arrested June 8, 2016, after repeatedly walking back and forth in a marked crosswalk to protest a police-sanctioned enforcement event. Scotti also dismissed the case, ruling it a violation of the First Amendment.

The city alleged that Scotti did not follow procedure when issuing his opinion. City Attorney Steve Morris told Judge Linda Marie Bell that the city believed there was an overarching procedural issue that led to Scotti being biased against Boulder City.

Additionally, Morris argued that Scotti and Hunt’s attorney, Stephen Stubbs, participated in an improper communication during a status check hearing Sept. 19 and that Scotti basically gave up the court’s authority by allowing Stubbs to dictate how to proceed.

In her ruling Friday, Dec. 14, Bell wrote that nothing in her order shall be considered an indictment of the procedures in the case and that even if she believed Scotti committed procedural errors, that did not give evidence of bias. She also said the city’s claim of bias was weak and its pleadings made only a brief mention of it.

“At oral argument, the lack of any true evidence of bias became more apparent,” Bell wrote in her decision. “The city only paid lip service to the idea of bias. While it is conceivable that a judge could make procedural errors because of bias for one side, such evidence and argumentation proving this is lacking in this case. Instead, the city only attacked Judge Scotti’s competency as a judge.”

Additionally, she wrote that the remarks of a judge made in a court proceeding “are not considered indicative of improper bias or prejudice unless they show that the judge has closed his or her mind to the presentation of all the evidence.”

“Chief Judge Linda Bell’s ruling is based on the belief that Judge Scotti’s confusion and lack of factual and procedural understanding of the underlying action did not rise to the level of bias towards the city,” the city said in a statement released Monday, Dec. 17. “The city respectfully disagrees and is evaluating how we will proceed forward in this matter.”

“Once again, Steve Morris has embarrassed the city of Boulder City,” Stubbs said after Bell’s decision was filed. “This motion was ridiculous. Instead of personally attacking the judge that correctly decided that Steve Morris committed prosecutorial misconduct, vindictively prosecuted Mr. Hunt and violated Mr. Hunt’s First Amendment rights, maybe, just maybe, Steve Morris should just read the Constitution and stop violating victims’ rights. I hope the City Council acts swiftly to correct these horrible decisions by Steve Morris.”

In making her decision, Bell noted that she could not grant the city’s request to negate Scotti’s Oct. 29 order.

“I only have jurisdiction to disqualify judges,” she wrote. “Even if I were faced with clear and unrelenting evidence of extreme bias leading to unfair rulings, I cannot overturn one of my colleagues’ rulings, as I am not an appellate court. I can only consider whether Judge Scotti will sit for future rulings in this case.”

Bell also wrote that Stubbs’ argument that the city’s motion was untimely and a way to get Scotti’s order negated was “unpersuasive.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Forecast projects 30-plus-foot drop in 2 years at Lake Mead

Lake Mead’s water level is projected to drop more than 30 feet in the next two years, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority is urging people to continue conserving water.

Transportation issues forces changes to school hours

Several schools in Boulder City will be affected by the district’s recent decision to change the start and end times at some campuses in order to improve transportation.

Process to report mask mandate violations established

Nevada’s mask mandate is still in effect, and the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration office has created a way for people to report alleged violations.

District implements 5-day pause

The Clark County School District is implementing a five-day pause for all classes and school activities due to extreme staffing issues because of the high number of positive COVID-19 cases.

Motion for special fund to build development’s storm drain fails

Boulder City will not move forward with creating a special improvement district to pay for infrastructure improvements to a piece of land marked for sale despite the mayor requesting staff research the process.

Interim evaluations eliminated; timing puts focus on annual reviews

The city manager and city attorney will not have interim performance evaluations after City Council approved removing the requirement from their contracts and to just move forward with annual reviews.

Lake Mead not affected by planned water releases

Water operations at Lake Mead will not be affected by a reduction in the monthly water releases from Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, according to Bureau of Reclamation officials.

New Townsite Solar project lauded

The recently completed Townsite Solar + Storage project will provide another avenue for Boulder City to purchase power, as well as bring in millions of dollars of revenue.

Historian, Nevada native to lead train museum

The Nevada Division of Museums and History has selected historian Christopher MacMahon as the new director of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City.