On Tuesday, November 15, 2022, the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada certified the “Stipulation and order of consent to bar from serving in Judicial Office in the future” charged against State Court Judge Douglas E. Smith. The case is styled as ‘In the matter of Hon. Douglas E. Smith’ with case number #85645.
The judge was charged with violating Canon 1: 1.1, 1.2 and Canon 2: 2.2,2.5(A), 2.9(A) which states:
A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.
A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety
It is required that judges uphold and apply the law, and perform all the duties of judicial office fairly and impartially
It is required that judges perform judicial and administrative duties competently and diligently
It is required that judges refrain from engaging in ex parte communications or considering other communications made outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers, concerning a pending or impending matter, or any of these rules, in his capacity.
The following are as alleged and summarized from the filing.
In 2015, Respondent presided over the trial in the matter of State of Nevada v. Diego Salazar (“Salazar Matter”), which involved the kidnapping and sexual assault of a child. Although the trial resulted in the conviction of the Defendant in that matter, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial since the record reflected that the Respondent had failed to swear in the jury. Thereafter, Respondent retired from his position as a District Court Judge in the Eighth Judicial District Court and the Salazar Matter was set to be retried, consistent with the instructions of the Nevada Supreme Court. With the Respondent’s retirement, the Salazar Matter was reassigned to another member of the Eighth Judicial District Court bench. Upon remand, the Defendant then moved to dismiss the Salazar Matter on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct, witness tampering, and, among other allegations, as well as ex pare communications between the Respondent and the Prosecutor assigned to the original urial of the Salazar Matter.
The Respondent admitted that he had a private conversation with the Assistant District Attorney during the course of the 2015 trial in the Salazar Matter, from which Salazar’s defense counsel was excluded. However, Respondent contends that his private conversation with A.D.A was not an ex parte communication since he and A.D.A. Daskas did not discuss the Salazar Matter. However, the Nevada Supreme Court concluded in the Salazar Writ Order that an ex parte conference bad actually occurred in this matter, notwithstanding the Respondent’s contention to the contrary.
The order reads:
‘Following the witness’s testimony, one of the prosecutors advised the judge that Assistant District Attorney Robert Daskas wished to speak with him. The judge informed the parties that Daskas contacted him directly. The judge thereafter spoke to Daskas ex parte in chambers, barring defense counsel from entering, and even admonished defense counsel to “…never walk in my office the way you did again’.
The order continues:
‘The judge ordered the witness to be booked on the warrant, telling the parties that he had made that decision independently. When informed of an additional warrant, the judge ordered her booked on that warrant as well. But unbeknownst to defense counsel, the judge also ordered the witness to be immediately released on her own recognizance, effectively quashing the warrants.’
The order further alleges:
‘Although the trial judge claimed to have acted alone in ordering the witness arrested and released, and although one of the two prosecutors stated she made no promises to the witness, the record lacked actual testimony, under oath, as to the essential [acts. Notably, it is unclear as to what occurred during the er party conference between Daskas and the trial judge, and neither testified under oath to those facts.’
Respondent and the Commission hereby stipulate to Respondent’s consent to a bar from serving in a judicial office in the future pursuant to Rule 29.
The Judge earned a law degree from Whittier College of Law in California.
The Judge’s Courtroom is located at 200 Lewis Avenue Las Vegas in Clark County.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.