Controversial Las Vegas LDS Judge to Retire
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- Controversial District Court Judge Steven
Huffaker has decided to retire after 22 years on the bench in Las
Vegas. Judge Huffaker, 67, sent a letter of resignation last Friday
to Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn announcing the resignation, effective
February 22nd. The decision brings to an end a long tenure marked by
recent criticism that Huffaker shows religious bias and failed to
recuse himself in cases where he had a conflict of interest.
Huffaker is a 1974 graduate of Loyola University School of Law who
worked as a public defender in Clark County before his appointment to
the bench by Governor Robert List in 1980. He received good reviews
from lawyers in judicial performance evaluations through the mid
1990s, but then several issues arose that led to criticism.
In 1995 Huffaker recused himself from hearing a case involving a
casino in which he owned stock, but only after he had ruled on
several issues. Then in 1997 he threw out a $5.8 million verdict
against The Mirage, leading to criticism because his son had received
a college scholarship from the casino worth $11,000.
But other attorneys claimed Huffaker showed bias towards LDS Church
members and in 1998 his approval rating by fell as a result. He
responded that year in a written statement, saying "Some attorneys
see me only as a 'Mormon judge,' rather than a plain old judge. I
think they see me more as a Mormon than the pope as Catholic. Perhaps
some of them would like to crucify me." But in spite of his response,
Huffaker's performance evaluation fell again in 2000.
Huffaker's resignation is timed to take advantage of Nevada's
retirement program. Under that program, judges get the maximum
retirement benefit, 75% of salary, after completing 22 years of
service. Huffaker completes 22 years on February 21st. He says he may
still hear cases after that as a senior judge, and wants to start a
new career. "I'm going to just do something else in the law," he said.
District Court Judge Huffaker to retire after 22 years on bench
Las Vegas NV Review-Journal 19Dec01 P2
By Carri Geer Thevenot: Las Vegas Review-Journal
Brief news stories from Las Vegas: Judge Retiring
Las Vegas NV Sun (AP) 19Dec01 P2