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Info about the Eighth Judicial District Court.

Monthly Archives: May 2017

Truancy Diversion Program (TDP) volunteers who commit to a school-year of weekly truancy diversion court sessions on a Clark County School District (CCSD) campus will be recognized on Friday, June 9 at 1 p.m. to be held at the Ballroom at Main Street Station 200 N. Main Street. Each of the volunteers will be given an award and the opportunity to share their experiences of helping students attain and education.

The TDP was established by Judge Gerald Hardcastle in 2002. Since 2007, the program has been overseen by District Court Judge Jennifer Elliott in collaboration with the CCSD. “The volunteer Truancy Diversion Judges are playing an important role in addressing the significant issue of truancy in Clark County. They listen to the kids, hear their issues, encourage and motivate them. The volunteers help students to overcome challenges and work to succeed,” said Judge Elliott. “The attorneys and other professionals who volunteer as judges find it very rewarding to help these students get on track to graduate. I invite attorneys, mental health professionals and law enforcement officers to be part of the solution to the significant problem of truancy in our schools.”

Those without a high school diploma face higher prospects of unemployment and the associated negative consequences. This collaborative effort between the CCSD has been structured to prevent and reduce youth crime, re-engage students in learning, and ultimately, reduce potential costs to our welfare and justice systems. It is a non-punitive, incentive-based approach to at-risk school students with truancy problems. A team (judge, family advocate, school personnel) works with the students and their families.

“The Truancy Diversion volunteers are making a difference by conveying the importance of school and motivating the students to graduate,” said Presiding Family Court Judge Charles Hoskin. “The challenges the TDP volunteers are addressing with the students now, improve the students’ odds for success down the line.”

Judges, attorneys, mental health professionals and law enforcement officers volunteer approximately three hours each week to and hold truancy court sessions at schools, where they meet individually with students and their parents. They review the students’ attendance, school work, and progress to ensure that students have the resources they need to be successful. The TDP judges promote and support academic achievement using a team effort and an individual student success plan. Since 2007, the TDP has expanded from six to 80 schools including elementary, middle schools and high schools. The goal of the Eighth Judicial District Court Family Division is to continue to expand until all Clark County schools have a TDP program.

If you are a licensed attorney, mental health professional or law enforcement officer and are interested in volunteering as a TDP judge for this Specialty Court program please call 702-455-1755. The Family Court youth programs are a great example of how the Eighth Judicial District Court is using alternative, efficient methods to address crime and ensure justice. District Court continuously works to develop innovative ideas, improve efficiency, address issues and improve access to justice.

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OathtightThree new District Court judges will pronounce their judicial oath to uphold justice in our community on June 2 at 2:30 p.m., at an investiture ceremony at the Clark County Government Center Commission Chambers, 500 Grand Central Pkwy. In front of family, friends and fellow jurists, District Court Judge Tierra Jones, District Court Judge Mark Bailus, and District Court Judge David M. Jones will receive their judicial robes and swear an oath to uphold the law.

“Each of these new jurists have excelled professionally. I believe that their depth of experience will serve them well as they preside over the complex and challenging cases of the Eighth Judicial District Court,” said Chief Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.

  • Judge Tierra Jones is serving in District Court Dept. 10 in Regional Justice Center courtroom 14B with a civil/criminal docket.
  • Judge Mark Bailus will serve in District Court Dept. 18 in the Phoenix Bldg.11th floor courtroom with a civil docket.
  • Judge David Jones is serving in District Court Dept. 29 in Regional Justice Center courtroom 3B with a civil docket.

Judge Tierra Jones leaves a post as a deputy district attorney for Clark County to take the bench. She also served as a district attorney in Nye County and public defender in Clark County. Judge Jones is from  Hawthorne, Nevada. She attended University of Nevada, Reno and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law.

Judge Mark Bailus takes the bench after working in private practice with a focus on complex civil and criminal litigation and appeals at the law firm of Bailus Cook & Kelesis, Ltd.  Judge Bailus’ professional experience also includes a partnership in the law firm of Cherry Bailus & Kelesis, serving as general counsel for Nevada Beverage Company and as an attorney with the Clark County Special Public Defender’s Office.  Further, he was on the Ombudsperson Panel to represent the deceased family and public at the Police Fatality Public Fact-Finding Review hearings. Judge Bailus is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and received his Juris Doctor from Pepperdine University School of Law.

Judge David Jones is a Las Vegas native and Valley High School graduate. He attended Arizona State University. After graduation, Judge Jones taught Government, World and U.S. History at Rancho High School. After several years as a teacher, Judge Jones attended University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, graduating with honors. Judge Jones’ professional experience includes a long-term partnership at Rawlings, Olson, Cannon, et al., and a partnership at the law firm of Lewis Brisbois. He was also the managing attorney for the Plaintiff based firm of David Allen & Associates. His work includes presiding over short-trials, mediation and arbitration, and the Truancy Diversion Program.

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District Court Judges Valerie Adair, Doug Herndon, Eric Johnson, Jennifer Togliatti, Michael Villani and Nevada Appeals Court Judge Abbi Silver recently attended a four-day, intensive course on handling capital cases sponsored by the National Judicial College in Nashville, TN.

During the graduation ceremony for the course, Judge Villani was awarded The Certificate in Judicial Development General Jurisdiction Trial Skills with a plaque and certificate from the college. Judge Villani has 442.51 hours of continuing judicial education credit which qualified him for the Advanced Judicial Education Certificate.


Judge Michael Villani

Continuing education requirements for Nevada judges are mandated by statute and Supreme Court order. Judges are required to keep their knowledge of the law current through comprehensive continuing education and training to promote the competency and professionalism of the Nevada judiciary. A complete overview of judicial educational requirements can be found on the Nevada Supreme Court website

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The judges of the Eighth Judicial District Court recognize the important role that those who take pro bono cases serve to ensure that justice is served. Every month at the Civil Judges’ Meeting and Family Division Bench-Bar meetings, the stories of how a child’s life was made better or a senior citizen’s finances were salvaged are shared when the Pro Bono Volunteer of the Month is recognized by the judges and the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Many of the judges themselves are committed to conveying the important life changing impact pro bono legal representation can have for a child or a person who would otherwise be unable to afford needed legal counsel. For example, this year Judge Joanna Kishner was awarded the Justice Nancy Becker Pro Bono Award of Judicial Excellence for her work elevating pro bono awareness and recruiting attorneys. Judge Kishner is one of the judges who have visited numerous law firms urging them to handle pro bono cases.  She received the Nancy Becker award, for her involvement in programs that promote pro bono work including the “Excuse me, I have a line pass because I’m a pro bono superstar” campaign, in which pro bono attorneys’ cases were called first on the docket.

Line passes, judicial recognition, and awards are definitely nice, but the truly rewarding part of pro bono work is that representing someone pro bono can make a world of difference for someone in need. Below are stories on lawyers who have stepped up to step in and do pro bono work.

Eric Walther, an attorney at Kolesar & Leatham, is the April Pro Bono Attorney of the Month recognized at the civil judges’ meeting. Eric began volunteering with Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada in 2016. He took his first pro bono appeal case only a few months after finishing his clerkship. By taking a pro bono appeal case, Eric got the opportunity to argue a case before the Nevada Court of Appeals in just his first year of practice—something that many attorneys never experience. He expressed that pro bono cases allow him to serve some of the most vulnerable members of our community while gaining invaluable legal experience along the way.

Elizabeth Brickfield an attorney with Dickinson Wright, PLLC was honored at the civil judges’ meeting as the February volunteer of the month for her outstanding pro bono work. Elizabeth has been volunteering with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada for over 10 years. She has accepted 18 pro bono cases in areas including: guardianship, adoption, termination of parental rights, wills and estates, divorce, custody, child abuse and neglect, and probate. Elizabeth also volunteers for the probate Ask-a-Lawyer Program and mentor other volunteer attorneys. A memorable pro bono case for Elizabeth was helping African refugees who needed assistance with guardianship of their granddaughter. With Elizabeth’s help, the grandparents obtained guardianship and the child’s name was changed and she was enrolled in school. Elizabeth said, “No one should go through life with a birth certificate listing their name as Baby Girl with the last name of the mother who abandoned you at birth.”

Emily McFarling of McFarling Law Group began volunteering with Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada in 2013, she has accepted a numerous pro bono cases in a range of areas. She waas recognized by the Family Division for her outstanding service including the Legal Aid Center’s Partners in Pro Bono program in which lawyers and law students are matched up to work together on a pro bono case. Emily conveyed that she is particularly sensitive to issues of domestic violence, such as when victims are cut off from their finances, making it very difficult for them to leave their abuser and especially difficult to have the assistance to do so. A case that made a significant impression on Emily was when she represented a biological father who filed a paternity action prior to his child’s first birthday only to have it dismissed because the mother had placed another man on the birth certificate.  Emily represented the father on appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. She succeeded in getting the dismissal reversed, and on remand was able to get the other man’s voluntary acknowledgement of paternity set aside and joint physical custody established for her client.

Shea Backus is a shareholder at Backus, Carranza & Burden and the January pro bono attorney of the month recognized at the civil judges’ meeting. Shea has been volunteering since 2012 with a focus on representing children in abuse and neglect cases.  She also volunteers for the Ask-a Lawyer sessions and mentors attorneys at her firm who are interested in doing pro bono cases. A memorable case for Shea was a teenage girl who was shuffled through multiple foster care placements over four years. Shea was a consistent figure who was able to get the teenager medical and mental health care. At her recognition ceremony, Shea was quoted on the case involving the teenager. She said, “While I may have made a slight change in her life, she had a big impact of mine and my understanding of mental health, child abuse and neglect and the juvenile justice system.”

Carrie Primas is an attorney with Hanratty Law Group. Since 2013, Carrie has accepted a number of  pro bono cases for which she was recognized by the Family Division. She assists low-income clients and children in a variety of matters, including child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, divorce and custody. Carrie also participates in our Family Law Ask-A-Lawyer program.  Carrie does pro bono to help people who do not have the resources or knowledge to know where to start in their legal battle. She conveyed that she believes they are just as entitled to justice as somebody who can afford the best attorneys. Her first pro bono case in which she represented five siblings who were removed from the home due to the father’s abuse of an older sibling, left an impression on Carrie. It was apparent during their visits with the mother that there was a strong bond and these children wanted to return home. With Carrie’s advocacy helped to get the children returned home safely and the case was closed.

Each of those recognized for pro bono work are a hero in their own right. They have given of their time and energy to make someone else’s life better. We applaud their work and the work of all those who have stepped up to handle cases pro bono.  To participate in pro bono work, visit or call 702-386-1413 to select a pro bono case.



A recent book drive at the Regional Justice Center and at Family Court brought in boxes of books to be given to students, teachers and for use at an upcoming book fair. Thanks to all those who lugged in bags and boxes to contribute books. The Clark County School District sent a van to collect the recycled reading material. They expressed appreciation for the books and promised that they will go to good use in the hands of kids who really need them, in teacher gift baskets, or to stock book fair tables.

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Recovery is a lifelong journey. Two recent District Court veterans’ court graduates will have something special to remind them to stay solid in their recovery. At a recent graduation ceremony, the vets were wrapped in a Quilt of Valor by presiding veterans’ court Judge Adrianna Escobar and the Nevada state coordinator for the Quilt of Valor Foundation, Victoria Colburn Hall. The beautiful, patriotic themed quilt was sewn by volunteers to show honor and give comfort to veterans who have served our country.

Victoria Hall is a Blue Star mom; her son spent 24 year in the Marine Corp assault unit. She thanked the vets for their service and gave a brief overview of the foundation. The Quilt of Valor Foundation was founded in 2003 by Blue Star mom Catherine Roberts from her sewing room. Blue Star moms are those who have a son or daughter in active service. Her son Nathanael’s deployment to Iraq served as the initial inspiration for the foundation. That has since presented thousands of quilts nationwide to those who have served our country.

The local chapter of Quilt of Valor meets the second Friday of the month at 8670 W. Cheyanne Ave. from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room 105. Volunteers are always welcome; no quilting experience is necessary. For more information call 702-357-0377.

Judge Escobar looks to veterans’ court success stories as inspiration for others going through the program. Since Sept. 2012, the veterans’ treatment court has helped veterans who are facing criminal charges as a result of substance abuse. Veterans’ court is one of several Eighth Judicial District specialty courts that save millions of tax dollars by averting repeated incarcerations due to substance abuse offenses and related crimes. Specialty courts solve issues through a rigorous and coordinated approach between judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, Parole and Probation, law enforcement and mental health/social service/treatment professionals. All work together to help participants recover, live crime-free and become productive citizens. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals reports: “nationwide, 75 percent of drug court graduates remain arrest-free at least two years after leaving the program. Drug courts reduce crime as much as 35 percent more than other sentencing options.”

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The lawyers

For the past six years in late April, tennis players from the legal and medical communities have suited-up to compete in the lawyers vs. doctors tennis tournament as a fun way to raise money for the Marty Hennessey Inspiring Children Foundation. The doctors won this year, for the third year in a row.  The truth is, the kids really end up the winners as more funding comes in to help students in need achieve higher education. The lawyers, doctors, judges and others compete in both adult and junior singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis draws. The foundation has raised more than $2 million to help at-risk youth including 85 children who have received college scholarships.

The event also raises awareness for the Marty Hennessy Inspiring Children Foundation which helps keep kids “stay on the court and out of court.” To date they have helped placed more than 100 under-served youth into college on scholarship to schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Wharton School at Penn, Yale and UNLV law and medical schools.

The Physicians and Barristers Ball Charity Tennis Classic Tournament was founded in 2012 with the help of Neal and Nicole Tomlinson. The Physicians’ & Barristers’ Ball Charity Tennis Classic was created to get active tennis players from the legal community involved with a fun and exciting event that raises awareness and funds for the Marty Hennessy Inspiring Children Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The Marty Hennessey Inspiring Children Foundation was started more than11 years ago by Ryan Wolfington and Marty Hennessey. With the support of entertainment legend Tony Bennett and Andre Agassi’s father Mike, as well as the top doubles team in the world Bob and Mike Bryan, the foundation has raised more than $2 million to help at risk youth. The Foundation’s goal is to provide the ultimate environment for a child to become their best in all areas of their life. This includes excellence in academics, athletics, inter-personal skills and leadership. To learn more, visit

Judges and attorneys who played tennis for the lawyers this year included:

Judges: Judge Abbi Silver, Judge Jennifer Togliatti, Judge Michael Villani 

Attorneys: Trevor Atkins, Marcus Berg, Brian Berman, Jordon Butler, Victor Cardoza, Elaine Dowling, Bruce Gale, Charles Gianelloni, Ryan Gormley, Rory Kay, Alex Mazzia, Craig Marquiz, Andres Moses, Neal Tomlinson, Diane Welch, David Westbrook

Attorneys who think they have tennis skills are invited to join the fun next year to help give lawyers a win over doctors.

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