By JUDGE LANNY WAITE
Moapa Valley Justice Court
Many have seen the campaign signs begin to appear for Moapa Valley Justice of the Peace, and have asked if I am leaving. I will not be seeking re-election, and will be retiring at the end of this year. Serving the community and people I have loved since I was a young man, has been a privilege, and honor, I will always cherish.
I have learned over these many years, how difficult, and delicate, the balance is between justice and mercy. I have learned how difficult and personally challenging it is to sit in judgment of those seen on a daily basis in the grocery store, at ball games, or in church. As an imperfect man, and Judge, I know my decisions have not always found the perfect balance. I can only assure you the decisions I have made have never been because of a personal animus towards anyone, and have always been guided by two critically important pillars; do my decisions comply with constitutional and legal principals, and do they help keep the community of Moapa Valley safe.
Moapa Valley Justice Court has come a long way from it’s days in the side room, of a condemned building. Each improvement has come grudgingly, and only after hard fought victories with the County Commission, County Staff, District Attorney’s office, Public Defenders office, Juvenile Court, the Department of Parole and Probation, and the County Jail. From a robe for the Judge and a flag in the courtroom, to computers and adequate staff in a clean, safe working environment.
From handling a few traffic citations, to handling all criminal and civil matters, including restraining orders, within the Justice Court’s jurisdiction. From sending all juvenile offenders, their families, witnesses, and police officers to be handled on the conveyor belt of “justice” in Las Vegas, to taking the time necessary, by someone who understands our communities norms and priorities, to truly monitor and mentor them so their mistakes become learning experiences that are less likely to be repeated.
Many of these battles continue to this day. Attempts have been made in the past, and will be made in the future, to consolidate all the outlying courts, or force them back to Las Vegas where they were before I took office. These attempts include the removal of Juvenile Court back to Las Vegas. It will take sober, clear headed, and determined leadership, by someone who understands, or can be mentored to understand, the history and nuances of these battles, to stop this from happening.
I recognize I have been particularly tough on DUI and repeat drug offenders. My policies have come not from an attempt to impose personal beliefs or standards on others, but from a recognition early on, that these two problems pose the greatest risk to the safety and security of our community. The sentences I have imposed for DUI’s are the toughest in the state, and have resulted in a community where drunk driving is minimal compared to other communities in Nevada. During my 31+ years on the bench,
Moapa Valley has not seen a DUI accident involving serious bodily harm or death, due to the combined effect of tough sentencing, and vigilant enforcement by the dedicated law enforcement officers who patrol our streets and highways.
Over time, I came to know those who have serious drug problems. They are usually in Court often. The entire law enforcement community, including the Court, became frustrated with what seemed to be a never ending cycle. Some have been helped by counseling, support groups, random drug testing, community service and jail time. Many have not. From this concern was born the “Fresh Start” program.
For those who are repeat drug offenders, and have been given the “normal” ranges of sentencing , who continue to commit crime in the Valley, an option is given when they plead, or are found guilty; serve the maximum sentence possible for the crime, (6 months), or voluntarily leave the Valley for 3 years. I do not, and can not, by constitutional standards, order someone out of the Valley against their will. They, after advice from their attorney, can voluntarily leave the community as an alternative to going to jail.
This program recognizes the incredible trap that exists for those who have a drug addiction, when they stay in the same community and mingle with the same friends, acquaintances, and drug sources, they have developed over years of addiction. This program provides them with an opportunity to leave this trap behind and gain a “fresh start”, somewhere else. It has the added benefit of reducing crime in the Valley.
Since instituting this program, there has been a dramatic reduction in theft at local businesses, and petty and serious crime, including residential burglaries. The suggestion this just sends the problem to another community, fails to recognize the potential, that with a “fresh start”, some of these individuals have, and will, find sobriety and a new lease on life. For those who do not, the Judges in those communities are free to do the same thing I have done. The responsibility of your Judge, is to see that Moapa Valley is kept safe and secure.
Once again, thank you to the people of Moapa Valley, for entrusting me with the opportunity to serve you. Our community is truly unique, and a special place to live and raise a family. May it always remain that way.