by Sheila Gardner

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October 12, 2012
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Election 2012: Incumbent brings judicial experience to East Fork court

East Fork Justice Tom Perkins said his nearly two years on the bench have been among the most productive of his 36-year-legal career.

"Justice court is where I've done most of my best work," Perkins said. "It is very challenging, very important work. Public safety is paramount.

"I use my education and experience every day when I go to work. It's a court of law, and the people have the right to the best judges."

Perkins, 61, was appointed to the position in 2010 following the resignation of Justice Jim EnEarl. He is seeking a full six-year term against challenger Wayne Fazzino.

"I like the court," Perkins said. "It's a very active, full-time job. I am really grateful for the chance to serve."

He acknowledged that traditionally East Fork Justice Court has been served by a nonlawyer, as permissible in Nevada law.

But he pointed out that Tahoe Township Justice Court has been adjudicated by lawyers for decades through former Justice Steve McMorris and current Judge Richard Glasson.

"What matters is your experience in court," he said. "I bring 36 years as a prosecutor, defense attorney, private attorney and district judge."

Perkins said he had no interest in serving as district court judge and would not apply for the vacancy created by the resignation at the end of the year of District Judge Dave Gamble. He said he did not intend to run for election to that court in two years.

"The only thing that interests me is serving as justice of the peace," he said.

Nevada justice courts are limited jurisdiction, created by statute. The court hears criminal matters (which include traffic violations), small claims, evictions and civil matters up to $10,000. Justice court also issues temporary and extended protective orders against domestic violence and/or stalking and harassment.

In a year, Perkins said, he averages 1,300 criminal cases. He also hears thousands of traffic cases, and hundreds of small claims, domestic protection orders, civil cases, and the early stages of all felony cases.

"It's not a job for a part-time judge any more," Perkins said. "The support staff works incredibly hard to keep it moving."

Since he took over the bench, Perkins has instituted a Victim Impact Panel in East Fork, and regular reviews for DUI offenders on probation.

He is working with the district attorney's office on digitally interfacing computer systems

He hopes to create a mental health court in Douglas County to assist defendants who are mentally ill and unable to get to Carson City or Washoe County.

"It's part of us being responsible for our own people," he said. "And it shifts the responsibility from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. It's not fair to DCSO or the patient for Douglas County Jail to be a mental hospital."

Earlier this year, Perkins advised state legislators that although East Fork Township had surpassed a population benchmark permitting a second justice of the peace, he wasn't requesting one.

He told the state that because of the economy and the county budget, it wasn't the right time for additional county officials.

Perkins said one of the most satisfactory aspects of the job is hearing from defendants who come back to thank him.

"Once in awhile, somebody straightens up, and they thank me for saving their lives," he said. "It's very rewarding, but I can't take the credit. All I can do is hold them accountable."

Perkins said he wasn't accepting endorsements.

"I have the support of friends, neighbors and people with whom I work or have worked, as well as many others who know me personally or by reputation. However, because of my view of judicial ethics and the independence of the courts, I have chosen not to accept political endorsements," he said.

Perkins and his wife Ellen have five daughters, and live in Minden.

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The Record Courier Updated Oct 12, 2012 08:35PM Published Oct 12, 2012 08:25PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.