Over the last few months a drama of enormous and comical proportions has been playing out in a local court in Las Vegas. Elizabeth Halverson, a 49-year-old district judge, is at the center of the controversy and is now under investigation by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline.
Halverson worked as a law clerk in the district court for nearly a decade before being fired from that job (I haven’t been able to learn why). Having been fired as a law clerk, the next logical step was to run for a judgeship. She lost, but tried again in 2006 and this time won.
Allegedly, Judge Halverson quickly became the terror of her courtroom, according to her own staff, at least two of whom are suing her. Her bailiff, who is suing for discrimination, claimed that she treated him like a "house boy," engaging in games like throwing a pencil on the floor and ordering him to pick it up. (Sure, that’s great fun, but still.) He also alleges she ordered him to give her back massages and foot rubs. Halverson’s court clerk has called the judge’s behavior "vile, angry, and degrading," and she should know since the judge apparently referred to her as "the evil one" and the "anti-Christ." Attorneys do not seem to have been too happy in that courtroom either — a video clip on YouTube shows Halverson insisting that a jury is impossibly deadlocked, although jurors had been deliberating only about two hours. (That’s frustrating, but not nearly as bad as judicially mandated foot rubs.)
A May 28 column by Jane Ann Morrison of the Las Vegas Review-Journal details a meeting between Halverson and three other judges who had been asked to meet with her because of concerns over possible hostile-work-environment claims. Strangely enough, Judge Halverson explained everything to their satisfaction. It appears that the bailiff insisted on rubbing Judge Halverson, despite her repeated requests that he stop. (I think I forgot to mention that Judge Halverson weighs approximately 425 pounds.) He also insists on making her lunch. It also appears that her staff actually prefers to show up at 6:45 a.m., almost two hours before the judge does, though they too have been asked not to engage in this early-arriving behavior. Nor does the judge understand why her staff would be offended by her treatment of her husband Ed (a convicted felon, according to some reports). If it bothers them that she calls him a "bitch," then fine. The bitch won’t come to chambers anymore.
The upshot, of course, was that Judge Halverson seems to have blamed everybody else for the alleged problems, and did not admit she had done anything wrong. One of the judges then suggested "psychological help." If she got any, it didn’t take. Halverson was actually banned from her own courtroom in May, after she insisted on bringing her own bodyguards to the courthouse and also insisted they not be required to pass through normal security checks. She has since been let back in, apparently after agreeing that the bodyguards could stand down.
According to Morrison’s May 31 column, Halverson is being investigated by the Discipline Commission for an unknown number of violations, and could be removed from the bench, something that Morrison says many are hoping for. Although I have to say, as the children in this Halverson campaign commercial point out, she sure does have a cute dog. And that’s good enough for me.