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Las Vegas Judge Ousted after Ordering Public Defender Handcuffed

On February 28, 2017, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline ordered former Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen to never again serve as a judge in the state. Hafen also agreed to a public censure after admitting he had violated judicial canons; his ouster came after four separate complaints were filed with the Commission.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, in December 2014 a defendant received 50 days in jail for causing a disruption in Hafen’s courtroom, but he failed to file an order of contempt. A year later the judge failed to file a similar order for a man sent to jail for 10 days when he tried to represent himself at trial. A third complaint stated that in April 2016, Hafen sentenced a woman to 25 days after she “started screaming and yelling” at the judge, but he again failed to file a contempt order.

The most intense criticism against Judge Hafen resulted from a May 2016 incident in which he ordered a defense attorney to be handcuffed and refused to let her speak as her client was sentenced to jail. Hafen lost a bid for re-election a month later. Public defender Zohra Bakhtary’s attorney, Dominic Gentile, said the judge had confused Bakhtary’s “zealous defense” of her client with obstruction of justice, and she was never given an opportunity to speak on her own behalf. A Clark County district judge later overturned Hafen’s contempt finding against Bakhtary.