North Las Vegas City Attorney Sandra Douglass Morgan tried to get the state’s Commission on Judicial Discipline to act against Municipal Court Judge Catherine Ramsey.
A year and an investigation later, nothing has happened. So Douglass Morgan decided to take advantage of the recall against the judge and run for the position herself.
The recall election hasn’t been called yet, and Ramsey’s attorney said he plans to appeal a district judge’s ruling that the recall can go forward.
Douglass Morgan said she started Tuesday collecting the signatures she would need to make it on to the recall election ballot.
Ramsey’s attorney Craig Mueller said Wednesday that he was outraged about the news because last week Douglass Morgan was advising the city clerk during a court hearing where District Judge Eric Johnson ultimately ruled against Ramsey and deemed the recall valid.
“Every day I think my opinion of North Las Vegas can’t get lower,” Mueller said. “It’s the most basic conflict of interest.”
Douglass Morgan pointed out that she offered to leave the room where the clerk was testifying remotely, but the judge said she did not need to leave. Douglass Morgan also said she did not advise the clerk while she was testifying.
“I have a right to engage in the political process like any other resident if I choose to,” Douglass Morgan said. “I’d be interested for him to cite the actual rule that I violated.”
Ramsey is one of two Municipal Court judges in North Las Vegas, and this is her first term. Municipal Court handles small civil and criminal matters, and the judges are elected at-large to six-year terms.
Ramsey has argued the recall is political backlash for trying to protect court funding from being re-purposed by city officials.
She alleged that city Chief of Staff Ryann Juden threatened to send out a mailer of “half-truths,” saying “the ‘low information voters’ are not going to know the difference.”
Ethics complaints filed by two, now laid-off, human resources employees in March recounted a similar exchange.
Douglass Morgan said her motivations for running are separate from the recall effort and that she was personally frustrated by problems persisting with the judge.
“It’s been no secret that my office had issues with Judge Ramsey and I personally did whatever I could to enhance the system,” Douglass Morgan said. “I at least understand the people, and the climate, and the collective bargaining issues. At some point it became apparent to me that I could at least assist.”
Douglass Morgan said that her staff complained about how the judge treated them and that Ramsey’s courtroom became “a joke.”
More seriously, Douglass Morgan said Ramsey would recklessly dismiss cases and reduce charges.
A commonality between the politically juiced recall effort and Douglass Morgan’s formal complaint is Ramsey’s decision to charge legal expenses to her city purchasing card after Douglass Morgan told her the city wouldn’t be defending her in a wrongful termination lawsuit involving her former judicial assistant.
The city’s reason for refusing was because the employee claimed Ramsey had violated a promise she made during her campaign. As the promise happened before Ramsey became a judge, the city decided the legal spat wasn’t its problem.
Additionally, Douglas Morgan’s complaint accused Ramsey of recklessly changing charges and dismissing complaints and warrants out of spite. Ramsey has argued the warrants were invalid and a legal risk as the signatures weren’t updated to reflect the correct city attorney.
Douglass Morgan said she gathered all the evidence and submitted it to the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, but as it’s a year later and nothing happened after its investigation, she is assuming the commission felt it didn’t seem important enough.
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City attorney runs for seat of North Las Vegas judge facing recall