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Nye judge recuses self in Assembly appointment case

Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Kimberly Wanker has recused herself from the case involving the possible delay of the appointment for the Nevada Assembly District 36 seat.

The lawsuit, filed by Ed Goedhart on Nov. 27, requests that the courts bar the currently sitting Nye County Commission from making a selection for that appointment, so as to allow the newly elected commissioners, who will take their seats in 2019, to make that decision.

At this time, the Nye County Commission has scheduled a meeting for today, Dec. 5 to pick its nominee for the position and on Dec. 7 the board is set to hold a joint meeting with the commissions of Clark and Lincoln counties in order to make the appointment official.

As a Nye County resident and voter, Goedhart argues that he and the people of Nye County Districts 4 and 5 will not have proper representation in this matter if their newly elected commissioners are not part of the appointment process.

The case was filed in Fifth Judicial District Court Department 1 but on Nov. 30 Wanker filed an order of recusal and had the case shifted over to Department 2, to be presided over by judge Robert Lane. Goedhart said he was certain that Wanker had made the right decision.

“I do not know the specifics of the reasoning behind Judge Wanker recusing herself but I have confidence that it was for valid concerns and am grateful that she acted to uphold the impartiality of the process,” Goedhart stated after Wanker’s recusal had been filed. “I just wish that certain board of county commissioners would act with similar integrity and follow her example.”

In an amended order of recusal filed the following Monday, Dec. 3, Wanker provided an explanation of the purpose for her recusing herself.

“Judge Kimberly Wanker had conversations concerning the appointment of a new Assembly person, the subject of the instant lawsuit,” the amended recusal order read. “In addition, Judge Kimberly Wanker has breakfast at the VFW where both current and future board of county commissioners are present and has conversed with them. Therefore, in accordance with Rule 1.2 of the Revised Code of Judicial Conduct, and in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the undersigned district judge voluntarily recused herself from the above-entitled matter and asked that it be reassigned to the honorable Robert W. Lane.”

As he vowed, Goedhart and his attorney Craig Mueller filed a second document with the court, which was also recorded on Monday. In this filing, Goedhart asks judge Lane to host a hearing as soon as possible, as the commission meeting to make the appointment is looming.

The document outlines Goedhart’s belief that the hearing should take place immediately. “I filed my motion for inductive relief on Nov. 27, 2018. I was given a hearing date of Jan. 15 at 9 a.m. There is an emergency that cannot wait until that date to be heard… As the outgoing board has announced its intent to conduct a special meeting on Dec. 5 to appoint the candidate in violation of Appellate Statute, it is imperative that an injunction is ordered in order to allow plaintiff the opportunity to obtain Declaratory Relief…”

Nye County did not appear to be disquieted by the attempt at legal action.

“The county believes the underlying lawsuit has no merit and the county will respond accordingly,” Nye County Public Information Officer Arnold Knightly said of the situation. “The county has not seen any new filings beyond the initial court filing and plans to move forward with the appointment process. The current board is authorized and obligated to fill the vacancy according to state law. It is important to have someone in place as soon as possible to begin working for the people of District 36.”

By 2 p.m. on Tuesday, the motion for an order shortening the time was denied by judge Lane. “The court finds that… it is not proper to grant an order shortening the time… The court is cautious of rewarding plaintiff when he failed to timely bring his claims to this court, fully argued and articulate the merits of his actions in his pleadings, given any reason for his delays, or why he should be granted relief without providing defendants time afforded them to respond… Therefore it is hereby ordered that the plaintiff’s motion… is denied.”

Lane set a hearing for 9 a.m. on Dec. 19.

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