On Wednesday, March 6, 2024, Clark County District Court Judge Erika Ballou filed her verified answer to the multiple ethics charges brought against her by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Judge Erika Ballou,” with case number 2022-173-P.

In her answer, Judge Ballou denied that her alleged conduct in two separate incidents violated several sections of the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct, including rules requiring impartiality and prohibiting conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The charges stem from comments Judge Ballou made during sentencing hearings in 2021 and 2022. According to records from the Judicial Discipline Commission, in 2021 Judge Ballou seemingly expressed that a Black defendant had reason to flee from police during a vehicle pursuit on the Las Vegas Strip. She said, “there being no reason to run from the police, clearly you’re not a Black person in the United States of America, because there are absolute reasons to run from the police.”

In 2022, Judge Ballou allegedly told another defendant, “You’re a Black man in America. You know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are.” She also said she avoids interactions with police as a middle-aged Black woman out of concern for her safety, according to the complaint.

In her answer, Judge Ballou asserted that her comments were protected speech under the U.S. and Nevada constitutions. She denied the comments violated judicial conduct rules requiring impartiality.

The judge is also facing charges related to social media activity, including posting a photo on Facebook that showed her in a hot tub with two public defenders, along with a caption referencing one defender’s appearance.

In her answer, Judge Ballou denied this conduct violated judicial ethics either. She claimed her social media pages were private and did not identify her as a judge. Judge Ballou also took steps to limit her online exposure after meeting with the chief judge in May 2022.

Judge Ballou’s answer included several affirmative defenses and mitigating factors as well. She argued the complaints improperly identified her private social media identity and innocent third parties. Judge Ballou maintained one post was meant as a private joke and the hot tub photo did not imply the public defenders could influence her decisions.

This marks the latest scrutiny of Judge Ballou, who made headlines in 2016 for refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter pin in court contrary to a judicial order. A hearing on the current ethics charges has not yet been scheduled. It remains to be seen whether the commission will be persuaded by Judge Ballou’s defenses or pursue any discipline over her past controversies.

Judge Ballou’s courtroom is located at the Regional Justice Center, 200 Lewis Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89155, and can be reached at (702) 671-0591.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.