A Washoe judicial candidate alleged Wednesday her opponent — a sitting judge — intimidated attorneys for endorsements.
Caren Cafferata-Jenkins said during the Washoe County Bar Association Family Court debate that family court attorneys endorsed Washoe Judge Chuck Weller in fear of retribution.
“Unfortunately, 90 of the nearly 100 family court lawyers have endorsed Chuck Weller, and a large number of those people have revealed to me that they have endorsed Judge Weller — taken a sign — because they fear retribution,” Cafferata-Jenkins said at the debate Wednesday at Harrah’s Reno during a bar association luncheon.
Intimidation wasn’t necessarily intentional, but a judge appearing at an attorney’s home asking for an endorsement is hard to decline when you need to appear in their court, Cafferata-Jenkins said.
Weller called the allegations baseless attacks.
“She doesn’t live, work or vote in Washoe County,” said Weller of Cafferata-Jenkins’ residing in Carson City. “She doesn’t know family court lawyers here very well. If she did, she would not imply that they are afraid to speak their minds. Then again, I can see why she is trying to divert attention from her lack of endorsements and headline news.”
“With her multiple problems, I’m not surprised by anything she says right now,” said Weller, alluding to Cafferata-Jenkins’ announcement Monday that she is stepping down as the executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics.
Cafferata-Jenkins said she resigned after an integrity complaint filed by a disgruntled former investigator of the commission brought undeserved criticism to the commission and questions on whether the executive director can run for public office.
Cafferata-Jenkins argues judicial candidates fall under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Discipline Commission, not the commission on ethics. Nevada law says the position is prohibited from being “actively involved in the work of any political party or political campaign.”
After the debate Wednesday, Cafferata-Jenkins told the Reno Gazette-Journal that she has received phone calls from family court lawyers apologizing to her for endorsing Weller.
“This race is getting personal,” said Eric Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. “Nobody is saying Weller is unqualified, but the basic statement is he is a jerk in court.”
On Wednesday, Weller was asked about the Washoe County Bar Association’s biennial judicial survey. Weller received the lowest retain rate (59 percent) and performance score (3.5 out of 5) among all 15 Washoe County District Court judges.
Members of the bar association conduct the survey of attorneys they appear before.
“My opponent has made a big deal about the Washoe County Bar Association survey and I suppose on some level it’s fair, but she omits a couple of facts,” Weller, who was first elected judge in 2004, said during the debate. “Only 58 people (attorneys) participated in the Washoe County survey in my department and 60 percent of them recommended I be re-elected. I think those are important facts.”
Weller mentioned his family court attorney endorsements as something his opponent also omits when she alludes to the survey.
In the June 10 primary, Weller advanced to the general election in Dept. 11 with 41 percent of the vote. Cafferata-Jenkins received 33 percent and John Hope Jr., eliminated in the primary, 27 percent.