By Hans Sherrer
Justice Denied (justicedenied.org)
Special to the Las Vegas Tribune
District Court Judge William Kephart has been charged with five ethics violations by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline. The charges relate to allegations he publicly interfered in the Kirstin Lobato case during a television interview broadcast in February 2016.
Kephart was one of the prosecutors when Ms. Lobato was convicted in October 2006 of voluntary manslaughter and other charges related to the July 2001 homicide of homeless Duran Bailey in Las Vegas. In May 2010 Ms. Lobato filed a habeas corpus petition in the District Court that presented new evidence [showing] she is actually innocent. Ms. Lobato’s case has received national and international media attention. Kephart was elected Clark County District Court judge in November 2014.
While Ms. Lobato’s petition was pending in the Nevada Supreme Court, Kephart gave an on-camera interview about her case to KSNV News 3 in Las Vegas. During the interview broadcast on February 29, 2016, Kephart’s statements about her case, included: “I stand behind what we did. I have no qualms about what happened and how we prosecuted this matter. I believe it was completely justice done.”
On May 9, 2017 the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline filed five ethics charges against Kephart related to his comments during the interview. The Commission’s Formal Statement Of Charges states: “Respondent’s television interview statements attested to his belief that Ms. Lobato is guilty as he indicated that justice was done, although these comments directly contrast with Ms. Lobato’s claim of actual innocence, which is a subject in the case. Therefore, there was or is a reasonable expectation that Respondent’s interview statements could affect the outcome or impair the fairness of Ms. Lobato’s case.”
The five charges of misconduct against Kephart are: 1) Failing to “maintain the dignity of office and avoid impropriety;”
2) “Failing to comply with the law;” 3) “Failing to act at all times in a manner that promotes confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety;” 4) Failed at “performing judicial and administrative duties competently and diligently;” 5) Making “public statement on a pending or impending case.”
The Commission will hold a public hearing on the merits of the allegations. If they are found to be true the Commission will impose sanctions or discipline that it deems appropriate under the law. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Ms. Lobato’s habeas petition is currently pending in the District Court, where it is being handled by one of Kephart’s co-workers, Judge Stefany Miley.
As the Commission alleges, Kephart’s public advocacy for Ms. Lobato’s guilt “could affect the outcome or impair the fairness of Ms. Lobato’s case” that will be decided by his colleague Judge Miley.
The Formal Statement Of Charges against Kephart is on the Commissions’ website at: http://judicial.nv.gov/Discipline/Commission_Home. Click on, “Pending Public Formal Statements of Charges.”