Part Three of a Three-part Series
Eighth Judicial District Court Judge, Bryce C. Duckworth, was the first attorney appointed to the family court in 2008 by the Nevada Judicial Selection Committee. His nomination is being criticized by a mother and self-represented litigant, who was falsely labeled “vexatious” to the Nevada Supreme Court to benefit his nomination as a family court judge.
In May 2008, Mr. Duckworth applied for the position to fill the vacancy of the Eighth Judicial District Court. In his application for appointment, he says he spent 100 percent of his time on family and juvenile matters.
The Judicial Selection Commission included Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark W. Gibbons, three attorneys appointed by the Nevada State Bar Association, and three non-attorneys appointed by Governor Jim Gibbons, who is not related to Chief Justice Gibbons.
Other lawyers considered Mr. Duckworth well-skilled, and he was one of three recommended finalists whose names were forwarded to Governor Gibbons, who made the final decision.
In 2010, Victoria Giampa filed a civil rights complaint in state court claiming Nevada family court Judges Gloria S. Sanchez and Sandra L. Pomrenze conspired, under color of law, with Mr. Duckworth, Smith Larsen & Wixom, Dr. Louis Mortillaro, and her ex-husband, Charles Giampa, to interfere with her parental rights.
The case against the defendants depicts a deceitful scheme to fraudulently conceal two psychiatrists’ evaluations in a motion on parent-child issues depriving her of notice to discredit Ms. Giampa’s status as primary custodian. Further, she was shocked to learn that without her knowledge, defendants concealed the children away from her to live without parental supervision in the Country Club Towers to prevent her from having any contact with them.
In 2012, she filed a second civil rights complaint in the United States District Court of Nevada claiming the defendants interfered with her seeking redress by obstructing her claims of a fraudulent change of custody, which prevented her from obtaining a remedy in state court.
A federal judge dismissed her complaint and she appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court.
But after years of disappointment and the deep pain she carries for the loss of her children — a loss that can never be remedied — she is determined to continue her quest to seek justice and now spends time preparing a brief to the Ninth Circuit, confident that she will be allowed to proceed with her case on the merits.
Ms. Giampa casts doubt on Mr. Duckworth’s honesty and says he was not fully forthcoming in his application to the judicial selection committee.
Although some analysts have described the open nomination as a watershed event, one that could influence other appointments in the future, Ms. Giampa was skeptical about the first transparent process, given the Nevada Supreme Court’s resistance in publishing self-represented litigants’ opinions disallowing them the opportunity to set precedent and refusing to allow e-filing, all under its banner trumpeting “Equal Access to Justice.” Clearly, the Nevada Supreme Court does not live up to its own motto.
Despite Mr. Duckworth’s stellar legal background, the legal community’s praise of his appointment as a potential candidate was tempered by Ms. Giampa’s criticism of him for leaking confidential information when he posted an application on the Nevada Supreme Court’s website for wide dissemination and unauthorized viewing to the public, according to an affidavit filed with the court.
The judicial selection commission specifically asks for the applicant to list by case name and date the most significant cases, “not including cases pending in which you have been involved,” the description of the case, the parties, and the importance of the case to the candidate.
Ms. Giampa filed an emergency injunction with the supreme court to stop Mr. Duckworth from disseminating such confidential information without seeking permission from the court in violation of the application process which prohibited such disclosure on cases that were still pending before the court. At the time Mr. Duckworth mailed his application into the Commission on Judicial Selection, Ms. Giampa’s case was still pending in family court. In that same month, she filed an ethics complaint against him with the State Bar of Nevada. Court documents would reveal that in 1998, Mr. Duckworth had asked the court to seal the parties’ case.
While Mr. Duckworth was in the process of seeking an appointment on the bench, Ms. Giampa was in the process of filing an appeal with the supreme court based on a ruling from Judge Pomrenze, in March of 2008, who denied Ms. Giampa due process when the court declared her vexatious.
Before the supreme court had an opportunity to respond, Mr. Duckworth immediately removed the confidential information from the website.
According to court documents, from 2004 to 2009, Mr. Duckworth started using his legal talents for his client (Charles Giampa) by committing fraud. He devised a scheme and intended to defraud Ms. Giampa — who says he was quite successful in taking advantage of her, a self-represented litigant — by filing fraudulent documents and fabricating orders against her financial interests. A local attorney, who spoke anonymously, told the Las Vegas Tribune that Duckworth probably decided to go rogue before becoming a ‘made’ judge. He also stated that Duckworth grew up in the family court system, which was in the business of making money off clients willing to battle over custody of their children.
While the court orders do not dispute the evidence, it illustrates a broader problem in how judges are selected in the State of Nevada.
Mr. Duckworth’s nomination raises questions about whether the Nevada Supreme Court should be held accountable for questionable conduct related to its failure to disclose his misconduct and pending litigation when seeking an appointment as a family court judge.
After emerging unscathed from a recent federal court decision in April 2013, Mr. Duckworth and the judiciary no doubt feel above the law. But the court’s decision not only highlights how Mr. Duckworth and the judges got away with the fraud, it casts light on how the supreme court justices downplayed the fraud by not addressing it.
Nevada Supreme Court: A failure to scrutinize to benefit a judicial candidate
Ms. Giampa maintains Nevada Supreme Court was complicit in depriving her due process. Initial accusations of violations of due process could be checked against Judge Pomrenze’s order if a judge chose to conduct research – an easy task for law clerks. But all of the judges chose not to do so. That is how the judicial system works.
There was no getting around the unfair treatment, said Ms. Giampa. No one judicial official could refute what she was saying about the fraudulent orders changing custody and the violations of due process. Court orders confirm that the child custody case was rife with corruption involving attorneys, a psychiatrist, and at least two judges.
The justices had known about the fraud since 2005 when Ms. Giampa filed her first emergency appeal. In 2009, when the Nevada Supreme Court finally responded to Ms. Giampa’s claims, they faulted her for a failure to provide sufficient documentation in her original petition. Ms. Giampa expressed disbelief at these claims; and her version, based on the court docket, differs significantly from what the justices ruled. “I attached Judge Pomrenze’s March 28, 2008 order which clearly shows the court did not apply the Ninth Circuit’s four-part analysis when it declared me vexatious, and 37 exhibits. Judge Pomrenze’s order is the evidence,” stated Ms. Giampa.
But the justices’ ruling is complicated by a battle between a self-represented litigant exposing judicial fraud and siding with a lawyer slated to become a candidate for a judicial vacancy: “…while the limited information in the belatedly submitted appendix indicates that the district court may not have followed the proper procedure for declaring petitioner to be a vexatious litigant, there is insufficient information before this court to justify our extraordinary intervention,” the justices ruled.
“The bar for justice is raised beyond reach for a self-represented litigant and it is impossible to show clear evidence of fraud when the justices turn a blind eye,” said Ms. Giampa.
The one of many appeals may have ended in early 2008, but the adjudication process, including Ms. Giampa seeking a final order from Judge Pomrenze, continued until the end of 2009. According to the Supreme Court docket sheet, Mr. Duckworth had not withdrawn as counsel of record until November 2008.
Justices made serious errors: A failure to protect children
Controversy over the fraud issues were finally going to be addressed.
Mr. Duckworth made his arguments in his opening brief in 2008 criticizing Ms. Giampa for filing a frivolous motion — an abusive tactic meant to further stigmatize her as vexatious. He asked the justices to sanction her for violating Judge Pomrenze’s pre-filing order, which ordered Ms. Giampa to seek permission before filing any documents. “Mr. Duckworth filed a contempt motion to set me up,” she stated.
Ms. Giampa said that the justices should not have sanctioned her, because filing a reply to a contempt motion would not be considered in violation of a court’s pre-filing order. “It’s unlawful to treat self-represented litigants differently and sanction me for refusing to back down from Mr. Duckworth’s abusive tactics,” she added.
Ms. Giampa criticizes the Supreme Court justices for accepting the arguments of Mr. Duckworth. “I was being targeted in part because of my willingness to challenge corrupt court practices, and to stop me from exercising my right to speak out against judicial fraud. Justice Gibbons abused his power of office by refusing to scrutinize Mr. Duckworth’s fraudulent filings of a change of custody to benefit him – a potential judicial candidate.”
She accuses the Supreme Court for encouraging the other courts to block off every avenue to seek redress by affirming Judge Pomrenze’s void order. So, instead of investigating her complaints, which might have enabled her to have a last chance at parenting her children, her complaints were met with resistance from an entrenched court culture, tolerant of fraud committed by its own brethren: “To the extent appellant challenges any orders regarding child custody, we hold that any such challenge is moot as the children in question are now adults.”
Ms. Giampa challenged the Supreme Court’s order stating, “It creates law when no such law exists. It has no authority on changing society and creating a definition that does not exist and which my children and I are stuck with. Judge Sanchez and Mr. Duckworth deliberately and intentionally inflicted their damage on my children when they were minors as defined by the Best Interest of the Children statutes.”
Court documents also paint a bigger picture of Mr. Duckworth that would have a far bigger impact on litigants’ and parents’ rights and that would chill the average litigant and parent from appearing in court to face him.
In his reply brief, Mr. Duckworth spewed forth caustic remarks, which was no surprise, but does provide insight into his arrogance: “Pursuant to NRS 129.010 and NRS 125A.035, the district court no longer has jurisdiction over… [the children] in light of their emancipation… her arguments are absurd and frivolous. The district court no longer has the jurisdiction to order the children to visit with Victoria, to have them live with her, or to participate in any of their important life decisions.”
The three court justices — Michael Cherry, Nancy Saitta, Mark Gibbons – ruled against Ms. Giampa and awarded Mr. Duckworth $1,500 in sanctions, now totaling more than $15,000, court records would show.
Nevada Supreme Court shielded Mr. Duckworth from judicial review to benefit him for an appointment to the Eighth Judicial District Court.
The victory of Mr. Duckworth’s nomination is due in part to Chief Justice Gibbons, who embraced him for an appointment as a family court judge. Gibbons was the same justice who knew of Ms. Giampa’s pending writ involving fraud, critical information which might have adversely affected the judicial selection process if the disclosure of fraud naming Mr. Duckworth had been presented before the panel.
Justice Gibbons was also one of the justices who knew of and ignored Ms. Giampa’s complaints that her children’s education was in jeopardy while living without parental supervision in the Country Club Towers. But despite those complaints, the court documents reveal, the justices put the children’s welfare at risk by failing to hold Mr. Duckworth accountable as a favor to him – a nomination to the Eighth Judicial District Court.
Ms. Giampa’s case should stir outrage by the public around the world as the Nevada judiciary and its lawyers were complicit in protecting the judges and lawyers committing fraud revealing pervasive corruption in its courts. To say nothing of hurting the children and their mother.