More so than in other courts, decisions made by family court judges involve significant discretion. Judges are human and fallible. Their personal biases, philosophies, and life experiences influence their rulings and “tip the scales” in their decision making. That’s why the lawyers at Pecos Law Group believe that knowing your judge is almost as important as knowing the law.
The judge is the most important factor in your case and you have little control over which judge your case will be assigned. There are 20 full time family court judges. Approximately 15 of these judges hear divorce cases. When a complaint for divorce is filed it is randomly assigned to one of these 15 judges. Until your divorce case has been assigned to one of these judges, it’s unlikely you have ever heard of the judge or know anything about the judge.
The only real tool one has available to learn about judges is the “Judging the Judges” survey the Las Vegas Review Journal conducts. These surveys can provide you with limited information. Most of the judges of receive the “benefit of the doubt” during their first year “honeymoon” period and enjoy a good rating their first year or two. Often, not many attorneys have appeared before a new judge and there has not been enough time to determine how good the judge will be. Most family court judges receive lower scores with each survey, although occasionally a judge may improve. Moreover, some judges who are considered tough, no nonsense and lack patience will often receive lower scores because they are not liked. Many judges are perempted for personality reasons as much as their abilities. There is also a relatively low number of attorneys who participate, and a block of several attorneys can swing results by several percentage points.
What is a peremptory challenge? Each party is entitled to one peremptory challenge. What that means is for a $450.00 fee and a prompt notice, you can “get rid” of a judge for any reason and get randomly assigned to a new family court judge. There are various reasons why an attorney may advise you to exercise your peremptory challenge. Your attorney may have a personality conflict with the judge, or the judge may have a predisposition on a certain issue that has importance in your case. Peremptory challenges should be used for strategic purposes and the fee should not be a deterrence.
Before deciding whether to use your peremptory challenge, it’s important to identify the contested issues in your case and learn about the judge assigned to your case. Every judge is different, and every case is different. Some are more predictable than others. Should you retain our office to represent you in your family law matter, we will provide additional insights into your judge.
Below is some basic information about some of the family court judges that may help you in deciding whether to exercise your peremptory challenge:
Judge William Voy, Department A
Judge Voy is current serving in the juvenile division and does not hear divorce cases.
Judge Linda Marquis, Department B
Judge Marquis is one of the new family court judges. Judge Marquis had little experience in family court before she was elected, but her intelligence and common sense has made her one of the better family court judges. Beware, however, do not get on the wrong side of this judge or your case will not go well.
Judge Robert W. “Bob” Teuton, Department D
Judge Teuton was an attorney with the Clark County Juvenile court for approximately 20 years before being appointed by the governor to the family court in 2008. Judge Teuton is patient and deliberate. Judge Teuton’s background, however, is in juvenile court, not family court and he currently is serving as a judge in the juvenile division and does not hear divorce cases.
Judge Charles J. Hoskin, Department E
Judge Hoskin is highly regarded and his retention score has been consistently high. Judge Hoskin is prompt and prepared and whether you win or lose, you will generally feel like you received a fair hearing. Judge Hoskin is one of the more conservative judges when it comes to alimony awards.
Judge T. Arthur Ritchie, Jr., Department H
Judge Ritchie was appointed to the family court by the governor in 1999 and has been retained three times since. Judge Ritchie is consistently one of the highest rated family court judges in the Las Vegas Review Journal “Judging the Judges” survey. Judge Ritchie is highly respected by the bar and is one of the few judges who follows most procedural rules. Judge Ritchie expects attorneys to be prepared and does not have any patience for nonsense or posturing.
Judge Davis S. Gibson Jr, Department L
Appointed to fill the vacancy of Jennifer Elliott’s retirement, Judge Gibson only took the bench in January 2019. Before taking the bench Judge Gibson was a family court hearing master. It is too early to know what kind of Judge Gibson will be or how he will rule on certain issues. As a general practice, we will preempt new judges for the first several months until can get a general idea about a judge.
Judge William Potter, Department M
Judge Potter has been criticized for a casual and sometimes inconsistent judicial demeanor. Judge Potter, however, is underrated as a judge and usually makes the right decision.
Judge Matthew P. Harter, Department N
Judge Harter has served on the family court since January of 2009. Before being in private practice from 1995-2008, Judge Harter was the law clerk for family court Judge Gerald W. Hardcastle. Judge Harter graduated from UNLV in 1988 with a BA in Business Administration. For better or worse, Judge Harter is decisive and has the confidence to make orders without regards to external factors. Judge Harter is one of the more liberal judges when it comes to the award of alimony.
Judge Sandra Pomrenze, Department P
Judge Pomrenze’s retention score has decreased over the years, but this may be attributed to some controversial decisions and her demeanor. She has also been criticized for following the rules. Judge Pomrenze is an effective judge and generally reaches the right decision.
Judge Bryce C. Duckworth, Department Q
Judge Duckworth was a respected family law attorney and is highly regarded as a judge. Judge Duckworth is an excellent judge for any complex family law case and has an excellent demeanor.
Judge Bill Henderson, Department R
Judge Henderson has surprised many lawyers and has turned out to be a good judge. He is prepared, has a good demeanor and is not afraid to make difficult decisions.
Judge Lisa Brown, Department T
In her second stint as a family court judge, Judge Brown has shown consistent improvement and is now generally regarded as an effective judge.
Please note that the editorial comments in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinion of each attorney at vegas east attorneys.