Whatever misdemeanours are revealed in the next report of the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, our judiciary is non-league compared with premier league-standard Las Vegas family court judge Elizabeth Halverson.
She qualified in 1992 and in 1995 became a clerk to the 8th Judicial District before setting up her own practice.
Then her troubles started, and in 2007 she was suspended. By then she was alleged to have fallen asleep during one civil and two criminal trials; and treated her court staff as servants, including one who was obliged to give her back and foot massages and provide a blanket before her naps, as well as cook her lunch in the court lavatory. Worse, while a jury was deliberating, she ate with them and answered questions on the case.
One of the most notable complaints was that, after her clerk had been reassigned, she brought in unauthorised (and therefore uncertified) bodyguards to escort her. When the court administrator went to her chambers to discuss this she called the police to have him evicted. In 2009 she was ordered to pay $50,000 for defaming her former judicial assistant.
Halverson’s dismissal hearing was repeatedly delayed while she tried to have the tribunal removed and fought against providing full psychiatric reports – and until the sentencing of her husband Edward, whom she had repeatedly humiliated. On one occasion she had made him give evidence about whether he had completed certain domestic tasks. Eddie received three to 10 years for attacking her with a frying pan, but he claimed self-defence and bargained the case down from attempted murder.
At least the hearings must have reassured the public, as Elizabeth Halverson’s therapist testified that she did ‘not appear to have paranoia’.
Halverson was removed as a judge in 2008. Indomitably, she tried to stand for re-election and failed.
She died in 2014 – having divorced Eddie.
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor