NV 8 Dept 19 2020

No one on our legal team had much good to say about Judge Kephart. One called him the “worst judge on the bench,” another agreed that Kephart is “quite poor” on the bench and yet another said: “He doesn’t have a jurist’s demeanor.” Kephart was involved in the Fred Steese case as a prosecutor and was accused of suppressing evidence. Steese was later declared innocent and set free. Unlike former fellow prosecutor turned judge Douglas Herndon, Kephart has never expressed remorse for his part in the case.

In early October, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Kephart abused judicial discretion in a First Amendment case, JOANNA SARAH WELLER, Petitioner, vs. Respondents, and AMANDA RILEY, Real Party in Interest: “Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the district court manifestly abused its discretion by imposing a prior restraint on Weller's constitutional right to the freedom of speech.” 

In another recent case in Kephart’s court, Anthony Michael WILLIAMS, Appellant, v. The STATE of Nevada, Respondent, Kephart was found by the Nevada Supreme Court to have issued a retaliatory sentence. The high court vacated it and remanded the case to another District Court judge for sentencing. The defendant had appealed a judgment of conviction after a jury verdict of burglary while in possession of a firearm, grand larceny auto, and robbery of a victim 60 years of age or older, along with other crimes. After sentencing, the defendant expressed anger at Kephart’s sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years, the longest possible sentence for robbery of a victim 60 years old or older. Kephart responded by offering to increase the sentence. The defendant became even more irate and told Kephart and the prosecutor that he wished they would die. Kephart responded by increasing the defendant’s sentence to life without the option of parole for each count. Kephart then told the defendant to “have fun.” 

In a case Kephart prosecuted before he was on the bench, Charles Lee RANDOLPH, Appellant, v. The STATE of Nevada, Respondent, the Court of Appeals upheld a robbery and first-degree kidnapping and murder conviction; however, it also found Kephart’s closing remarks — which included advising jurors to go with their “gut feeling” — a mischaracterization of the legal concept of reasonable doubt: “...although we conclude that prosecutor Kephart’s misstatement of the reasonable doubt standard does not warrant reversal, the improper remark was particularly reprehensible because this is a capital case and the remark was gratuitous and patently inadequate to convey to the jury its duty to reach a ‘‘subjective state of near certitude’’ to find guilt. Any prosecutor reasonably knows that a ‘‘gut feeling’’ of guilt is not certainty beyond a reasonable doubt and that such an assertion should never be made to a jury.” The court issued an order to then-attorney Kephart to “show cause why the court should not impose on him sanctions such as, but not limited to, a monetary fine or referral to the State Bar of Nevada for violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

No one on the team was impressed with Eller, and several mocked her bizarre commercial. One panelist noted that she did “a poor job” when she was a municipal court traffic commissioner. But most said they still were voting for Eller over Kephart. 

Kephart not only did not fill out the questionnaire we sent to candidates, but falsely asserted that all the information sought was a matter of public record. Kephart is the sitting judge for Clark County District Court, Department 19. He is a former prosecutor who was elected to Department 19 in 2015 after spending four years as a Las Vegas justice of the peace.

Eller has practiced law for 27 years in the areas of criminal defense (misdemeanors and felonies in state and federal court), civil litigation and negotiation (real estate, contracts, personal injury and construction defect). She was appointed by the City of Las Vegas to serve as the first Las Vegas Municipal Court traffic commissioner. 

Update on 10/21/20 at 8 p.m.: In April, Eller received a letter of reprimand from the state bar for violating the following rules of professional conduct: 1.5 (fees); 5.4 (professional independence of a lawyer); 7.3 (solicitation of clients); and 8.4 (misconduct). The situation involved her work for a client related to obtaining proceeds from a foreclosure sale. According to the contract, Eller would have received more than $12,000 for what the bar characterized as “at most, two weeks of work” and, therefore, the fee was unreasonable. Additionally, the contract provided for partial disbursement of the proceeds to Calex Enterprises, which violated the fee-sharing with non-lawyers portion of rule 5.4. Eller conceded that she was in a business relationship with Calex, wherein Calex researches and obtains clients and Eller does the legal work. The flow of documentation related to her retention was in violation of rule 7.3. Eller was required to pay a $1,500 fine to the Nevada State Bar within 30 days of the letter. 

Also, as of Oct. 7, Eller is the named defendant in a pending civil matter (A-20-822640-C) filed by 10 plaintiffs alleging fraud, deception, violations of NVs Mortgage lending fraud statute and crimes against the elderly. Police reports have been filed regarding these matters. In conjunction with this matter and others arising from the same events, an ethics complaint was filed and is being investigated.