Nevada Woman Arrested After Being Reportedly Assaulted By Marshal As Judge Ignores Her Pleas

Screen-Shot-2013-04-29-at-11.18.19-AM2260_doninger_patricia_703The video below is a highly disturbing scene from the courtroom of Clark County Hearings Master Patricia Doninger (right) in a family court case. The video shows Monica Contreras, 28, who complains that she was assaulted by a marshal in the room next to the courtroom under a pretext of a spontaneous drug search. Doninger entirely ignores her and does nothing as the marshals arrest her on the clearly abusive charge of “making false allegations about a police officer.” Doninger is shown playing with Contreras’ daughter. Internal Affairs is reportedly investigating a host of such allegations in the courthouse. Contreras is now suing the officer Ron Fox, a second officer, James Kenyon, and Doninger in a civil rights action. She has also named Clark County, Nevada, as a defendant.

Contreras was called into a room where she says that the officer ordered her to lift her shirt and groped her. When she demanded a female officer, both the marshal and the judge ignored her.

She later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. This required some prosecutor to look at the evidence and, rather than act to stop this abuse of the system, alter the charges to shed to overtly unsupportable false information charge. I am not sure if she had counsel, but the role of the prosecution needs also to be examined. There appears no independent judgment or action from the prosecutor in participating in this sham. Then there is the absence of a criminal charge against Fox if in fact this “search” was a ruse for groping this woman. Prosecutors seemed to have no problem with the criminal charges against Contreras but there is no record of any charge against Fox.

Later, Fox was fired after an investigation. In a decision upholding the termination, Assistant County Manager Ed Finger found “Fox, and to some degree Kenyon, simply intimidated and bullied the complainant in a way that is shocking and almost incomprehensible, using the complainant’s own freedom and custody of her three-year-old child as threats.” It is not clear if Kenyon was also fired.

The Internal Affairs investigation reportedly confirmed her account from the room and there is no need for confirmation of what occurred before Doninger. I cannot imagine keeping Doninger on the bench after such a complete failure to protect individuals in her courtroom or perform even a modicum of the responsibilities of a judge. As for the officers, these allegations, if true, would constitute crimes.

What is astonishing is that Doninger is a “domestic violence commissioner” and has worked as a domestic violence commissioner since late 1998. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and her J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law. There is no evidence of such experience or even concern over this victim’s pleas on the videotape. As the presiding judicial officer in this court, she must bear the ultimate responsibility for the abuse.

The question is whether that accountability can take the form of civil liability over what could be viewed as a discretionary act on her part in allowing the arrest to occur. She will have some strong legal arguments. However, that does not relieve her of responsibility. There remains the question of her suitability to continue on the bench.

58 thoughts on “Nevada Woman Arrested After Being Reportedly Assaulted By Marshal As Judge Ignores Her Pleas

  1. Nick, I would recommend and ask that you show some better consideration for Jonathan Turley, our host here. It’s usually not polite to go to a gathering at someone’s home and make a scene. It should be understood that even if you believe Gene and Mike S. are wrong in what they are asking of you to curtail, they are still as guest bloggers representative of Professor Turley.

    I really don’t see how spamming a blog article does not result in annoyance on behalf of the blog’s owner or other contributors or readers. It sparks more of defiance than it does making good arguments on the various topics hosted here. Remember this is in many respects an international forum, given the international host of people who contribute and read here. We should try to keep that in mind in that this can reflect on us and our host. JT does have a reputation to maintain especially given the limelight he commands and if his blog degenerated into the caliber of posts reflective of an IRC chatroom, it isn’t helpful to him or his visitors here or elsewhere.

    Just my views.

  2. I am astonished by the Commissioner’s conduct. At the very least, she likely violated several cannons set forth in Nevada’s Judicial Cannons Code of Conduct. Specifically, Cannons: 2.12 (supervision), 2.8 (courtroom decorum) 2.6 (right to be heard) and 2.3 (prejudice, bias and harassment). I am also sure there are issues with her compliance with Nevada’s Rules of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

    In the face of harassing conduct by both the bailiff and marshall, she failed to intervene, which simply would have been to exercise her authority in the courtroom, order both to cease and desist, separate the witness from each of them and call for assistance to address the allegations, like any other allegation. I have not heard whether she has been disciplined or not. I certainly think some form of discipline is called for. Does anyone know?

    TP

  3. nick:

    is that what you were upset about? I was really wondering why you posted what you did. I went back and re-read Mike’s post and could not figure it out until he pointed it out above.

    You know I enjoy your posts but I think maybe you have let Mike and Gene get under your skin. As I have said before, they are quite restrained in their treatment of you. I would honestly just let it go and ignore them.

  4. Firing that court employee was not enough. If he had any other kind of job — security officer, vet, professor, accountant, toll booth collector — he would have been arrested. He broke the law. Jail ‘im. And the woman — whose dignity and grace was a good example of casting pearls before swine — should sue.

  5. personally i think a ignore button should be put into place so when certain posters begin their attacks on others for no reason accept they want attention. then those of us who DO NOT WANT TO READ what that poster has to say can simply hit the ignore button on them and that way we can all get back to reading those posts which are following the rules, which are debating LEGIT TOPICS. and not being a clown for the simple need of no not receiving any attention at home..

    I DO NOT COMMENT ALL OF THE TIME. as sometimes i cant the carpal tunnel makes it difficult but i read here all the time and have been for many years now. I finally got the nerve up a few years back to begin adding a comment every 10 articles or so . with that said i have watched nick go after Mr Spindelli and Mr Gene many, many times for no reason at all. i have watched them ignore him many times but like a infected gnat he will just not stop until they pay him attention. i am not speaking for anyone but myself. and i myself am tired of having to read thru his ignorant attacks on these 2 gentlemen so that he can get the attention he wants from them.

  6. Robinh,

    Thank you for your comments especially in light of your carpal tunnel. I’m lucky enough not to have that issue, but I’ve got a friend who has to wear braces and the whole nine yards. A very painful and frustrating condition. Best of luck on mitigating it.

  7. Well, I would have liked to comment on how vile the family court staff’s conduct and actions – or lack of – in this case, but it seems the comments have been trumped by a couple individuals berating each other. It takes away a sincere effort here to bring awareness of judicial abuse, with this tit-for-tat warring of words between these individuals. Sad. Still, what has happened in Clark County deserves absolute investigation, and I am glad that the victim is taking more action.

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