Really, the competition for a featured place in this blog is getting out of hand. I want to assure all my judicial readers that, whatever you might think, its not necessary to go to the lengths of Las Vegas Judge Nicholas Anthony Del Vecchio to get your name featured here.
First, some background on the man who would choose such a remarkably unflattering photograph as his official face to the world. This is from Las Vegas Review Journal for November 19, 2000:
Del Vecchio, a Las Vegas lawyer, lost seven previous elections before winning a race this month for a new judgeship in Clark County Family Court.
He also sought appointments to four other judicial positions without success. And on yet another occasion, he filed as a candidate for a nonexistent judgeship, later losing a court battle over the issue.
Oh yeah, and it took him five tries to get into law school.
"I was the last of six boys to go to law school," Del Vecchio said during a recent interview in his office. "I did not have the most stellar academic record. I always believed that C stood for commencement, that D stood for diploma, and I graduated magna thank godem. "
Del Vecchio, who often uses that kind of self-deprecating humor, said he graduated from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., in 1979 with a bachelors degree in sociology. He had a grade point average of 2.71.
"Being a student was always hard for me," he said.
That year Del Vecchio applied for the first time to the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. He continued to apply every year thereafter, until he was finally accepted in 1983.
You might wonder if the reporter was misreading the new judge when she assumed his self-deprecation was intended humorously. Certainly some reassessment might be in order following more recent articles:
The special prosecutor for the Judicial Discipline Commission has accused Family Court Judge Nicholas Del Vecchio of sexual misconduct and abuse of power, including coercing a judicial assistant into having a sexual relationship with him.
The complaint alleges that the relationship dates to before Del Vecchio was a judge, when the judicial assistant, the daughter of his ex-wife, was 14.
Del Vecchio took nude photos of the girl when she was between the ages of 14 and 16 and had her perform oral sex on him, the 38-count complaint states. The complaint adds that Del Vecchio kept the photos after he became a judge but later destroyed them.
The document, which is not a criminal complaint, also accuses Del Vecchio of using racial slurs against black and Hispanic court staff and of coercing staff into buying him lunches and airline tickets.
Again with the photographs. Didnt he learn anything from Woody Allens experience? But then, so far as my doctors-waiting-room and supermarket-checkout-line reading has informed me, Woody never "made audio recordings of the [sexual] encounters without the womans permission."
Then theres Judge Del Vecchios (alleged, alleged!) campaign technique, honed in all those unsuccessful bids:
He told a family court employee, Beata Funk, that he wanted to have sex with her and wanted her to wear tight shirts while campaigning for him, the complaint says.
Should we assume from the casual way the subject is introduced that its part of a court employees job in Las Vegas to campaign for her boss? Well, its an American tradition. One we can trace all the way back to Andy Jackson, and hes on the twenty dollar bill, after all.
The complaint even alleges he asked one co-worker to take men to dinner saying he "could tell they were interested in her and she could solicit and obtain campaign contributions." The judge allegedly told the worker that "she should dress nice" or "seductively."
The complaint isnt up on the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline website yet.
Ive never understood the rationale for applying a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard in judicial removal proceedings, though it goes all the way back to Samuel Chase. Removal from office doesnt mean the offender goes to jail.
And its not like reversing the decision of the electorate, either, even in those states that elect their judges in partisan races, because judicial candidates are "ethically" obliged not to tell us in advance what they plan to do with the power they seek. (Del Vecchios eight races should have told the voters that he wanted the power too badly to be trusted with it.)
When a judge is removed from office, all that happens is that he or she has to spend the rest of his career standing in front of the bench instead of sitting behind it – a fate many of us think no disgrace.
I think that when theres serious reason to believe a judge has sexually exploited his 14-year-old stepdaughter – when, in the jargon, theres probable cause – thats more than enough reason to remove the judge from the public payroll. And you know what? Id say the same thing about murder, too.
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