On Tuesday, June 11, 2024, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline issued a public censure against Clark County District Judge Erika Ballou for inappropriate social media posts and comments made during a sentencing hearing. According to documents filed by the commission, Judge Ballou consented to the censure and agreed to complete an online course through the Nevada Judicial College.

The censure stemmed from two social media posts Judge Ballou made in 2021 and 2022. In September 2021, during the Life is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas, Judge Ballou posted a selfie on social media complaining about having an early morning court schedule after the festival. The post included a hashtag with profanity suggesting hearings should be vacated. In 2022, Judge Ballou posted a photo on social media of herself in a hot tub with two public defenders, commenting that one of the defenders had “great breasts.”

The commission found these social media posts violated the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct, requiring judges to avoid impropriety and appear impartial. Judge Ballou acknowledged the posts were inappropriate but noted she did not intend for them to be publicly shared. As part of the censure, the judge agreed not to contest the allegations regarding the posts.

In addition, the censure addressed comments Judge Ballou made during a sentencing hearing in July 2022. When speaking to a Black defendant, Judge Ballou stated that as a Black man and woman, they should avoid police encounters because they might not leave alive. While the judge argued her comments were not untrue, the commission found they still violated conduct requiring impartiality.

The censure comes as the Clark County District Attorney’s office filed a renewed motion to recuse Judge Ballou from cases involving their prosecutors. District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the censure supports his argument that the judge appears biased against prosecutors. Wolfson noted this is the first time in his tenure he has sought to completely recuse a judge.

In its initial petition, the district attorney alleged Judge Ballou was biased, failed to follow a Nevada Supreme Court order in releasing an inmate, and did not remand the inmate after being overturned. A judge denied the petition, stating only the chief judge could order recusal. Wolfson has since filed in a specific criminal case that will be heard by Chief Judge Jerry Wiese on June 27.

Wolfson stated there is now an appearance of bias since his office submitted a complaint about Judge Ballou to the discipline commission. He argued future cases involving prosecutors could be unduly influenced. For her part, Judge Ballou said in mitigation that she considers herself supportive of police. However, the censure noted some of her other mitigating explanations were simply opinions or could not be verified.

The public censure requires Judge Ballou to complete a judicial ethics course. It remains to be seen if Chief Judge Wiese will grant the district attorney’s renewed petition to fully recuse her from cases involving prosecutors.

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.