NV 8 Dept 2 2020

Our legal team unanimously thinks Scotti should be ousted from the bench. And their language was unusually strong: “He’s a way loose cannon...can’t control himself on the bench...does not belong in a robe.” One panelist referred to his “inexplicable behavior” and said he “harms the image of the courts.” Another: “Some people just aren’t meant to be judges and Scotti is one.”

Scotti was involved in a bizarre incident that resulted in a new trial being called and ethics charges after he yelled and swore at a potential juror and threw a pocket Constitution during the voir dire process. The juror had disclosed that she was a pediatric nurse and did not believe she could be impartial. Scotti accused her of making up excuses to get out of jury duty. The Court of Appeals later found Scotti’s behavior to rise to the level of misconduct, stating: “A trial judge has a responsibility to maintain order and decorum in trial proceedings.” 

A ruling of Scotti’s also was vacated by the Nevada Supreme Court in a high-profile case in the wake of the 1 October shootings in Las Vegas. He granted an injunction that prevented news organizations from reporting on a redacted, anonymized autopsy report that they and other members of the media obtained through a Nevada Public Records Act request. The Supreme Court found the injunction to violate the First Amendment.

Additionally, in an appeal pursued by Bobby Dale RICHARDS, Appellant, v. The STATE of Nevada, the defendant claimed that Scotti erred by failing to provide the jury with a limiting instruction when presented with prior bad act evidence. (A limiting instruction is required twice: once at the time prior bad act evidence is provided and again at closing arguments.) The Court of Appeals found that Scotti had a sua sponte duty to raise the issue when the prosecutor neglected that duty. The Court of Appeals also found prior bad acts evidence in the case “highly prejudicial” and reversed the decision.

Kierny, a public defender, was praised by our panel for working on what one panelist called “the hardest legal job in Nevada — the sexual assault team.” She was described as “evenhanded,” “fair” and  “conscientious.” She estimated on her questionnaire that she spends approximately 50 percent of her time in a courtroom. She has worked on 41 trials including 27 by jury. Kierny has never been arrested, has had no citations for ethics violations and has no derogatory financial history.

In Buchanan v. State, upon seeing that the jury pool contained no Black jurors, Kierny objected and moved to strike the jury pool, stating that Buchanan’s constitutional right to a jury representative of the community was violated. The judge granted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Black community members were systematically being excluded from jury pools — but then ruled against Kierny’s motion before actually holding the hearing. On appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, the public defender’s appellate division argued the case and won. 

In another case reported by Kierney on her questionnaire as “significant” in her career, State v. Michael Mills (C-11-272028-1; jury trial 8/13/12 - 8/30/12), the defendant was charged with murder in a case where the victim’s body was never recovered and the only evidence linking the defendant to the alleged murder was a few drops of the victim’s blood that the defendant claimed came from a punch to the face in self-defense. The defendant was ultimately acquitted. Kierney said she “learned valuable information about the case by visiting the scene” and subsequently made it her policy to attempt to visit the scene of the alleged crime in every case, as well as learning about forensics, blood evidence and DNA.

Scotti is the incumbent in this race. He previously worked as an attorney at Kemp, Jones, and Coulthard (1996-2014) and Morton Galane & Associates (1992-1995). He was admitted to the Nevada bar in 1992.

Kierny is a Clark County chief deputy public defender who also once served as an assistant public defender (Champaign County, Illinois). She has been licensed to practice in Nevada for 10 years.