NV 8 Dept 20 2020

Most of our panelists said they support Johnson. One who has tried cases before him said: “He did a good job and called the cases fairly.” Another who has been in Johnson’s courtroom once said “He listened well and promptly issued very thorough written opinions.” Yet another said: “He is doing a good job and should be retained.” One panelist noted, however, that Johnson was a member of a four-judge "murder calendar" and said “both the defense and prosecution were frustrated with his lack of efficiency in court” and that “he was ultimately moved off that track because it was not a good fit.” Most panelists were either not familiar with Hooker or said she wasn’t qualified.

Eric Johnson was appointed to the bench in 2015, retained via election in 2016, and is the incumbent judge. Prior to becoming a judge, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney (1983 to 2015). He was the chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force from 2003 to 2013 and the chief of the Criminal Division from 2013 to 2015. During his time as a federal prosecutor, he proposed initiatives to help federal, state and local task forces prevent violent criminals and drug traffickers from obtaining weapons, to arrest and prosecute violent gang leaders and members, and to target those involved in child exploitation, child pornography and children tracking for prostitution. This year, he was elected to serve as the civil/criminal representative to the Judicial Council of the State of Nevada for the Eighth Judicial District Court. 

One of Johnson’s self-reported significant cases was Tiaffay v. State, in which he presided over an extremely high publicity murder prosecution. George Tiaffay was a military veteran and a respected firefighter who was accused of hiring a man to kill his wife. He was convicted and Judge Johnson ultimately sentenced him to life without parole. The trial was extensively covered by the media, including two subsequent nationwide programs by major networks. Johnson’s handling of the case was affirmed on appeal. In another self-reported case, Schwartz v. Lopez, Johnson decided that the Legislature had legally created education savings accounts, which allow parents to withdraw their children from public or charter schools and receive a monetary deposit that can be used for private school tuition, online learning programs, private tutoring, college expenses and other approved customized learning services and materials. On appeal, Johnson’s decision was upheld.  

During his more than five years on the bench, eight of Johnson’s decisions have been appealed. Of those eight, only two have been completely reversed and only one was for abuse of discretion. In that case, Renteria-Novoa v. State, the defendant was a habitual sexual offender that was convicted by a jury of 36 felony sexual assault offenses and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. His conviction was upheld on appeal. The defendant was attempting to overturn his conviction or receive another trial for reasons that could not be asserted at trial or during appeal. The defendant filed a motion requesting that Johnson appoint him another attorney to challenge the conviction. Johnson denied the request based on his evaluation of legal factors that may be considered when deciding to appoint post-conviction counsel. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the denial was an abuse of discretion because the facts of the case demonstrated that the defendant’s circumstances supported the need for an attorney to appeal and that the law Johnson had relied upon in his decision was no longer valid.  

Johnson has not been subject to any disciplinary actions. He has self-recused from criminal matters where he had previously prosecuted the defendant and to avoid any appearance of conflict during election years. Four motions to disqualify have been filed against Johnson; none were for alleged racial, gender, religious, or sexual bias — and the chief justice refused to grant any of them. 

Hooker is a personal injury attorney who has been licensed to practice in Nevada for 21 years. She did not fill out our survey nor respond to our law school team’s attempts to contact her directly for more information. She has no campaign website or reported contributions. Her biographical information here comes from her attorney profile page for her current position. Westlaw and Lexis searches for her cases rendered some information, but not much. She was hired for her current position, an attorney for Christensen Law, in 2001.  

In a lawsuit filed against Hooker’s employer and the firm, a plaintiff sued Hooker’s employer for falsely appraising the value of the plaintiff’s company in order to convince the plaintiff to sell his company to Hooker’s employer. The company was appraised at $1.25 million but allegedly sold for $10 million. Our legal team’s research was unable to determine the outcome of that case, but it appears none of the firm’s attorneys were sanctioned. However, Hooker’s employer filed a claim for the costs associated with that lawsuit with the firm’s professional insurance provider, which denied the claim after finding that the situation was not covered under the policy. Then, Hooker filed suit on behalf of her employer against the firm’s insurance provider for reimbursement of costs relating to that lawsuit and denial of the claim. The court ruled in favor of the insurance company.