Commission set to ramp up justice application process

Hopefuls for East Fork Township justice of the peace may be asked to fill out a 38-question application that covers topics from employment history to a demonstration of their ability to write legal briefs.

County commissioners will look at the draft application form Thursday and consider the salary for the vacancy created by the August resignation of East Fork Justice Jim EnEarl.

Faced with 36 resumes and letters of interest, the board directed County Manager T. Michael Brown and Human Resources Manager Darcy Worms to draft the questionnaire, along with recommendations for compensation and the selection process to appoint the successor for the remainder of EnEarl's term which expires in December 2012.

Brown said Friday the draft application form is based on Clark County's judicial selection process. He will be seeking the board's direction Thursday.

"They (Clark County) have been doing this for years. We thought it would be helpful for the board," Brown said.

The questionnaire devotes a section to the applicant's legal background.

Based on population, East Fork Township doesn't require a lawyer to be justice of the peace.

Past justices, including EnEarl and his predecessor Doug Struthers, have had law enforcement backgrounds.

Statutory requirement is that the justice be 18 and a qualified elector, have a high school diploma or the equivalent and be an East Fork Township resident for at least 30 days.

In addition, he or she may never have been removed or retired from office for judicial misconduct.

Brown said including the legal segment in the application doesn't mean the board prefers an attorney in the position.

"That's not in any way, shape or form an indication," he said. "It's just a recognition that there is a mix of attorneys among the candidates. We thought it would be helpful to have their backgrounds included in the application."

Of the 36 applicants, seven are lawyers.

Brown said he would be recommending to the board that they give applicants at least four weeks to fill out the questionnaires and collect references.

"Given the comprehensiveness of the questionnaire, I will probably ask for four weeks to give the candidates the time to turn it in," he said. "It's a means by which additional screening will provide more information for the board."

The application also asks candidates to submit a photo which Brown said would be helpful for the board to match faces with names.

Senior Justice of the Peace Steven D. McMorris is filling in as interim judge. McMorris, an attorney, was elected Tahoe Township justice from 1981-2001 and is a former Douglas County district attorney.

Commissioners are set to renew his monthly contract of $9,881.73 for another 30 days.

The county had advertised the salary at $103,417.60 a year for the new justice, but Brown said the commission is free to name any compensation.

"The justice of the peace and the constable are the only elected officials the board sets the salary for," Brown said. "They can set it at whatever rate they want. The only thing they can't do is change compensation for the current justice of the peace until the next election."

He is completing a survey of communities of similar size to find out what compensation packages are offered.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Tahoe Transportation Center, 169 Highway 50, Stateline.


Douglas County commission agenda


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