Nevada Judicial discipline panel weighs lifetime ban of former judge

A lawyer for former Family Court Judge Steven Jones described his client on Friday as “disgraced, disbarred, imprisoned, humiliated.”

Attorney Scott MacDonald told the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline that he has visited Jones three times at a federal correctional facility in Taft, Calif.

“Emotionally and mentally, he’s a shell of the man I’ve known for many years,” the lawyer said. “I mean, he’s just fully and completely defeated.”

The commission held a 20-minute video conference Friday on the question of whether to ban Jones from the bench for life. The panel took the matter under advisement and has 20 days to issue a decision.

“I think the result is, candidly, a foregone conclusion,” MacDonald told the panel.

Kathleen Paustian, special counsel for the commission, asked for the lifetime ban Friday “on behalf of the citizens of Nevada.”

Commission prosecutors in June charged Jones with violating the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct through his admitted role in a nearly $3 million investment fraud scheme.

Jones, 58, pleaded guilty in federal court in September 2014 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the decade-long scheme and then gave up his law license and resigned from the bench.

He is now serving a 26-month sentence at a facility near Bakersfield, Calif., and is scheduled for release in April 2017.

Some commissioners participated in Friday’s hearing from Carson City, and others participated from Las Vegas.

MacDonald, who has been licensed to practice law in Nevada since 1985, began his statement to the commission by asking for everyone’s indulgence.

“I haven’t been this nervous for a hearing since I was a first-year attorney,” he said. “I can’t entirely explain why.”

MacDonald then asked a rhetorical question: “How do you defend the indefensible?” He said that question has plagued him since Jones asked him to be involved in the matter.

“I have no case law or legal precedent to support any particular argument I could make today,” he added. “So I find myself in a rather awkward position.”

MacDonald said the proceedings seemed to have one purpose: to close a “fairly narrow loophole in the laws” by ensuring that Jones could never sit as a justice of the peace in the state’s rural counties, where law licenses are not required for such positions.

The lawyer then read from a Las Vegas Review-Journal article, which stated that Jones, a convicted felon who has been permanently disbarred, could never run for public office without a presidential pardon.

“I’m questioning the need to protect the citizens from that extremely narrow possibility,” MacDonald said.

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