Besieged Nevada Judge Fights Recall

     LAS VEGAS (CN) – A North Las Vegas judge sued the city and city clerk, claiming a judicial recall petition aimed at her was orchestrated by the mayor so he can “control the judiciary in North Las Vegas.”
     North Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge Catherine Ramsey sued the city, City Clerk Barbara Andolina, and three members of the “Recall Ramsey Now” group – but not the mayor – in Clark County Court.
     Ramsey wants the Recall Ramsey Now petition dismissed as unconstitutional, and more than $10,000 in damages.
     She claims, among other things, that a police union behind the recall effort acknowledges that it spent more than $10,000 on it, and that contributing more than $5,000 “in efforts such as this” is a felony.
     “Mayor John Lee wants to remove Judge Ramsey because he wants to control the judiciary in North Las Vegas,” Ramsey says in the June 9 lawsuit.
     Lee’s animosity to the judge is apparent. On March 11, the day the recall began, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported: “Mayor John Lee has made comments during City Council meetings calling her behavior immoral and has asked the city attorney if there was anything the council could do about the judge.”
     Ramsey’s then-attorney, Edgar Carranza, told the newspaper the mayor has “a very personal agenda against Judge Ramsey” because she fought his “many efforts to usurp the court’s resources” by reducing its funding.
     In the lawsuit, Ramsey calls the recall effort “a politically motivated campaign to ruin a judge and her reputation,” because Lee wants to replace her with the other municipal judge, Sean Hoeffgen, who is Lee’s friend and attends the same church.
     Hoeffgen is not a party to the lawsuit. The other defendants are city residents Betty Hamilton, Michael William Moreno and Bob Borgerson, individually and as members of Remove Ramsey Now.
     Ramsey says in the complaint that “Lee views the court as a division of the city and wants to put his own people in charge.”
     She claims that North Las Vegas chief of staff and Lee’s former campaign manager, Ryann Juden, told her there is a “political tsunami” forming against her.
     North Las Vegas has two municipal judges, and the position of chief judge rotates every two years.
     Ramsey says it is her turn to be chief judge, but Judge Hoeffgen has told her that Lee, who became mayor two years ago, wants him to remain chief judge instead of the position rotating to Ramsey.
     Ramsey refused and now neither judge now holds the position, she says in the complaint.
     The recall effort has been heavily funded by the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association. It began in March and needs 1,984 signatures from residents who voted in the 2011 election won by Ramsey.
     The Recall Ramsey Now group calls “unethical, dishonest” and says she “misappropriates public funds,” on its website.
     It also claims she has cost the city more than $120,000 in lawsuits filed against her.
     Ramsey says the accusations have no merit and that the judicial ethics committee has not charged her with any violations.
     She says the petition is illegal, has numerous invalid and duplicate signatures and that under state law only a public officer can be recalled, not judges.
     She seeks dismissal of the petition, damages, attorney’s fees and legal costs.
     North Las Vegas is a fast-growing suburb of about 227,000.
     Mayor Lee declined to comment beyond saying the recall is a citizen initiative.
     Recall Ramsey Now organizers did not respond to a request for comment.
     Ramsey is represented by Craig Mueller, with Mueller, Hinds & Associates, of Las Vegas.

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