Armstrong recommended for justice of peace seat

After two hours of questioning Thursday afternoon the Carson City Board of Supervisors recommended defense attorney Tom Armstrong to take over the remainder of the term of recently-retired Justice of the Peace Robey Willis.

With supervisors Molly Walt and John McKenna casting their votes for Assistant District Attor-ney Gerald Gar-dner, and supervisors Shelly Aldean and Karen Abowd, naming Armstrong as their pick, it was up to Mayor Bob Crowell to call the tie breaker.

Armstrong's experience as a former deputy district attorney in Carson City, coupled with his experience as a criminal defense attorney was the deciding factor, said Crowell.

"Justice court people should have that degree of balance between the prosecutorial and defense side. It's a fine line for me, but I'll give my vote to Tom," said Crowell, ending the months-long process that began prior to Willis' last day on the bench March 11.

But it was a letter of support from retired District Court Judge Michael Griffin, whose son Armstrong roomed with in college, that clinched the deal for both Aldean and Abowd.

"I was equally impressed with the comment that his first name won't be judge. I was also impressed by the fact that that comment was made by one of our former district judges who is a real outspoken advocate for lay judgeships. And I think that this candidate, from my estimation ... does have the compassion and the down-to-earth demeanor that I think is reflective of the sort of environment we want to create at the justice court level," said Aldean.

With Armstrong's appointment, this will be the first time more than 40 years when an attorney has sat as a justice court judge in Carson City.

Under Nevada law, justices of the peace in communities with a population of less than 250,000 are not required to be a licensed attorney.

Crowell said now that the recommendation of Armstrong has been made, Armstrong will sit down with the city manager for salary negotiations. The base pay range is $75,000 to $105,257 per year. The actual starting salary will be determined by the Carson City Board of Supervisors and will be based on Armstrong's education and experience.

The manager will then take the negotiated salary back before the board for approval before Armstrong is officially appointed.

Donna DePauw, who chairs the city's Charter Review Committee, said she was concerned that the process to whittle down an original 13 candidates to the three before the board was done in private.

"None of these interviews were open to the public. Nor were they televised so the voters that were denied a special election could make their feelings be known to the board of supervisors or the consideration of the ones they would like to see selected to replace Robey Willis," she said. "It just seems a little bit squirrely to me."

District Attorney Neil Armstrong disputed the suggestion that the process violated Open Meeting Law.

"Judicial selection committees are not subject to the open meeting laws, open meeting law does not apply to the judicial branch," said Rombardo.

Armstrong could be on the bench by May.


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