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Info about the Eighth Judicial District Court.

Tag Archives: Judge Michael Villani

 

Nearly 80 fifth graders from Vanderberg Elementary School, quietly lined up on the first floor of the Regional Justice Center on April 23, as they waited excitedly to go to various courtrooms to watches judges go through their criminal calendars to status check cases, set dates and hand down sentences. The students, who were on their best behavior, were told to pay attention to all the work being done in the courtrooms and to consider this work as a future job for themselves. They were also told to observe each case and learn from them.

We’ve all heard the cliché crime doesn’t pay. The fifth graders from Vanderberg got a first-hand look at why the cliché is actually true, including those who visited District Court Judge Michael Villani’s courtroom to watch his felony criminal calendar proceedings. Judge Villani went through case after case, setting dates for further action and handing down sentences. Judge Villani asked a young man with a long prior record who was being sentenced for snatching a purse, “What can we do to get your attention?”  The young man tried to convince the judge that he had changed and had stayed out of trouble for a while. Judge Villani wasn’t convinced. He sentenced him to boot camp, a regimented program aimed at rehabilitating participants through education and life skills training, manual labor and extensive physical training. He was handcuffed and led off to a holding cell.

After the calendar session, the students watched as the defendants who had been sitting in the courtroom were led away in shackles to a holding area for transport back to the jail. On the way out, one of the defendants blurted, “Stay in school.”

In a question and answer session with the students, Judge Villani shared that he rather the young man who snatched the purse get help, not just punishment. He noted that what many of the defendants have in common is they don’t finish school and they get involved with drugs. Judge Villani said, “If you don’t finish high school, it’s hard to get a job.” He also advised the students that they will probably face peer pressure to do drugs. He warned of the downward spiral that results and is common to many who are convicted of crimes and end up in prison.

The school visit was part of the Project Real youth educational program. Project REAL, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded in 2005 by Sam Lionel and Irwin Molasky to meet the challenge of teaching kindergarten through 12th grade Nevada students the importance of the law. They have taught over 160,000 Nevada students about the importance of the law with the goal of preparing them to be informed, law-abiding and participating citizens through their programs including: Your Day in Court, Play By the Rules, REAL Drama, and Independence & You. For more information from Project REAL, please contact Program Director Mike Kamer at mkamer@projectrealnv.org, call 702.703.6529, or visit http://projectrealnv.org.

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It’s not difficult to find tips online on how to get out of jury duty. Legal experts note there is a historic decline in the number of civil jury trials, both at the state and federal level. That’s the reason a luncheon panel comprised former jurors who served in the federal or state court in Southern Nevada was held in early September. The luncheon was a forum to learn from the former jurors how jury duty can be improved. The panel opened up to an audience of judges and attorneys about their experience of serving on a jury. The discussion and information gleaned will be included in a national Civil Jury Project study to solve the mystery of why jury trials are on the decline. The valuable information the panelists revealed at Las Vegas Jury Improvement Lunch can be viewed on the Civil Jury Project website https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/9-5-18-las-vegas-jury-improvement-lunch. Lunches conducted in other cities can also be viewed on the site https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu.

Moderator Steve Susman, the executive director of the Civil Jury Project at New York University (NYU) School of Law, floated some unconventional suggestions for discussion as ways to improve the jury service experience. The suggestions were diverse including: the idea of no sidebars to eliminate wait time for discussion of issues out of the presence of the jury; what and when jury a can discuss issues of the case; and what questions lawyers can ask during jury selection. The question of providing one verdict form per jury versus one per each juror was raised. The moderator raised the idea that jury selection would be more efficient if jurors had more information up front and asked the panel’s input on giving complete opening statements to all potential jurors.

Research on potential jurors was also a topic of discussion. The moderator asked,Do you think the selection process disclosed biases?” Susman raised ethical concerns and asked the jurors if they feel it is an invasion of privacy for attorneys to gather information about potential jurors on social media. Former juror Tabitha Gerken responded, “It’s inappropriate, but it’s expected.” When pressed why, she said, ”you’re asking the jurors who are taking time out of their life; they can’t talk to their spouses; they can’t talk to their friends; you’re asking them to be impartial, but then there’s other people, who they don’t know, who they’ve never met, who get to judge them from the outside by what they have on social media or on the Assessor’s page, or whatever. I don’t think it’s appropriate, but I expect it anyway.”

Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Villani, who had been selected to serve as a juror in a trial, noted that the jurors he served with questioned all the downtime. He shared that the experience made him more aware when he is presiding over trials. He said, “I tell jurors that while you’re waiting, we are working. I give them that little phrase so they know we are not just back there chit-chatting, that there is something important going on; that’s why there is a delay.”

Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Timothy Williams said that he uses jury questionnaires in about 50 percent of his cases and added that one of the issues that a District Court Jury Commission is looking at to save time is online jury questionnaires. He said, “We’re trying to devise a way where lawyers can actually submit their questionnaires in case specific and individual to the jury commissioner and have those answered.”

The moderator asked if it would be helpful to have more instruction from judges on deliberation. Federal District Court Judge Richard Boulware said that he would be open to giving jurors structure. He said, “I’ve heard from jurors that no one really tells them how to deliberate.”

A former juror at the session shared that, when he served on a jury, it wasn’t clear to the jurors what charges the witnesses were testifying on.

The difference between evidence driven deliberation and verdict driven deliberation was also discussed. According to Susman, empirical research shows jurors more satisfied when do evidence based deliberation and it’s harder to change minds once someone has already voted.

The use of straw polls was discussed. The suggestion was made to conduct straw polls with anonymous notes that include a not sure option. The idea is to reduce the potential for social pressure to influence  juror decisions.

When it comes to jury selection, Susman shared that 35 jury trial consultants told the Jury Project that questions: where do you get your news, and which person do you admire most and why, are more important than almost any other question to ask potential jurors.” Susman questioned the appropriateness of such questions.

All the former jurors agreed they would be willing to serve on a jury again and offered suggestions to improve the experience. Moderator Steve Susman indicated that common themes have emerged nationally about the jury process including: it was very repetitive; the trial lasted longer that it needed to because the lawyers just repeat themselves; there’s a lot of down time and wasted time before you even get selected.

The panel in Las Vegas was done in cooperation with the courts and the Clark County Bar Association.  Information learned will be part of New York University’s Civil Jury Project, the only academic center in the country dedicated exclusively to studying civil jury trials. The Civil Jury Project goal is to find out why jury trials are vanishing, whether this is a bad thing, and, if so, what can be done to prevent their decline. The juror luncheon in Las Vegas was the 18th held across the nation for a study that includes more than 260 state and federal judges, legal professionals and academics.

The participation of the former jurors and judges was greatly appreciated, including those jurors who were in the audience. Their input was invaluable and will help to ensure the Civil Jury Project reflects the views of our community.

To see the discussion visit the Civil Jury Project website:

https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/9-5-18-las-vegas-jury-improvement-lunch/

https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/

Tina Marie Pescatori reveals what she experienced when she served on a jury

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0YQx8IZmSc&t=5s

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On July 1, the new fiscal year begins. The new year brings a new chief judge and presiding judges at District Court.  Judge Linda Marie Bell was elected to replace outgoing Chief Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.  The chief judge maintains responsibility for managing the administration of the court. Judge Bell will continue to hear specialty court cases during her tenure in the chief judge post. Judge Gonzalez will return to hearing civil, business and mental health court cases.

Judge Michael Villani will take over as the criminal presiding judge from Judge Doug Herndon. Judge Jerry Wiese will take on the post as the presiding civil court judge from Judge Susan Johnson.  Presiding judges manage the business of their respective division.

On her last day as chief, Judge Gonzalez sent out a thank you to court employees. “I wanted to express my gratitude to each of you to your hard work in making our Court more accessible to the community. We have worked as a team to improve our time to disposition and access to all of our community. The work we have done as a group is a testament to each of you. The courtesy and respect shown to those who appear in our court system is something of which I am very proud. Thanks again to all for your contributions to this success,” said Judge Gonzalez. “The court administration team worked tirelessly in support of our strategic goals. Those of you who work behind the scenes in administration and the clerk’s office keep the wheels of the organization moving, without even being seen. Although we do not see you on a daily basis, know that your work is appreciated.”

Judge Gonzalez closed her email with, “It has been my honor to serve as your Chief Judge. I wish Judge Bell and her leadership the best of luck in continuing to make improvements on access to justice and time to disposition.”

During her term as chief, Judge Gonzalez established a jury services committee and put into action a plan to add active voter registration names to the Court’s Jury Master List. Judge Gonzalez implemented improvements to how minor guardianship and involuntary commitments are handled. She spearheaded logical enhancements to business practices to maximize space and proximity to enhance interface at the court with a business pod and a guardianship/probate pod. Management for homicide cases was also centralized under her leadership to improve efficiency in the management and timely disposition of such cases.

“I want to extend sincere appreciation to Judge Gonzalez for her hard work and significant accomplishments as the chief judge,” said Judge Bell. “Not only did she maintain a heavy and complex caseload, she accomplished much for the court during her tenure as chief judge.”

“I also want to thank Judge Herndon and Judge Susan Johnson for their work in the role of presiding judge. Both the Civil and Criminal divisions have made impressive progress under their leadership,” said Judge Bell.

July 1 will also usher in docket changes, and courtroom/chamber moves. A summary of those changes can be found in this related story: Change is coming to District Court https://wp.me/p1tnuA-1tQ

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Lawyers vs. doctors Tennis Tournament 2018

Revenge is sweet for attorneys and judges who beat doctors on the court in the Marty Hennessey Inspiring Children Foundation charity tennis tournament. For the past seven years, tennis players from the legal and medical communities have hit the tennis courts to compete in the lawyers vs. doctors tennis tournament as a fun way to raise money for the Marty Hennessey Inspiring Children Foundation. The lawyer team win snaps a three-year winning streak for the doctors. Do a hear trash-talk? Absolutely! The legal team has been gloating since the big win, and plan to use it their psychological advantage next year to even the score with doctors up four years of wins to the lawyers three.

The tourney is a round-robin event with games added for the win. The legal court crushers won 266 to 260 games. The foundation and event are to help students in need with college scholarships. An impressive $29,000 was raised this year.

The lawyers, doctors, judges and others compete in both adult and junior singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis draws. The foundation has raised close to $3 million to help at-risk youth including 110 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 110 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 than 15 years ago by Ryan Wolfington and Marty Hennessey. With the support of entertainment legend Tony Bennett and Mike Agassi, as well as the top doubles team in the world Bob and Mike Bryan, the foundation has raised nearly $3 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, entrepreneurship, inter-personal skills and leadership. To learn more, visit WWW.INSPIRINGCHILDREN.NET.

An impressive turnout of judges and attorneys turned out for the lawyers this year including: Judge Abbi Silver, Judge Jennifer Togliatti, Judge Michael Villani and attorneys Neal Tomlinson, Marcus Berg, Brian Berman, Jordon Butler, Victor Cardoza, Elaine Dowling, Bruce Gale, Charles Gianelloni, Ryan Gormley, Rory Kay, Craig Marquiz, Andres Moses, Diane Welch, David Westbrook, Tom Tanksley, Michael Brooks, Tamara Vannah, Shawanna Johnson, and Shaun Rose.

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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Judge Kathleen Delaney had a fifth grade class from St. Viator’s sit in on her calendar. After watching the wheels of justice turn in the courtroom, the wheels in the students’ minds were turning. They asked the judge some very thoughtful questions. One student got a big laugh when he asked the judge if she ever got frustrated with what happens in court.

Students from the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law spent part of their spring break in an alternative program where they learn about the practice of law and the courts. They sat in on court, attended a judges meeting and got some Q&A time in with the judges.

District Court is involved in a number of initiatives to educate students about the justice system.

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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 www.InspiringChildren.net.

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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Eighth Judicial District Court judges have teamed up with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to offer insight on recent Nevada Supreme Court decisions with a free Continuing Legal Education (CLE) session on Jan. 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Regional Justice Center, 200 Lewis Ave., courtroom 3A

The distinguished panel will include Judge Nancy Allf (moderator), Chief Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, Judge Susan Johnson, Judge Gloria Sturman, Judge Timothy Williams
and Judge Michael Villani.

The cost for this one-credit CLE is free, contingent on acceptance of one new pro bono case or participation in two Ask-A-Lawyer sessions. Those who wish to participate can view case summaries and Ask-A-Lawyer opportunities. Register online to attend the CLE seminar. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.   

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