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Reno Council expected to appoint new municipal court judge in December

By Carla O'Day
Published: Last Updated on
Reno City Hall. Image by Bob Conrad.

Finalists will be named next month by the Reno City Council to fill a vacant municipal court seat and the top candidate will assume the position in January, council members decided Wednesday.

Judge Tammy Riggs of Reno Municipal Court’s Department 4 resigned her seat effective Oct. 1.

Riggs was elected to a 6-year term in 2016 and is now running unopposed for the District Court Department 3 seat to replace Judge Jerome Polaha, who is retiring after 21 years on the bench.

Dylan Shaver, the city manager’s chief of staff, said the municipal court’s first three departments have heavy caseloads and that the fourth is currently being overseen by a Pro tempore.

Municipal court handles misdemeanors, code violations, and supervised rehabilitation for those needing treatment, among other things. Some think it duplicates a few Reno Justice Court functions, although council members didn’t favor abolishing the Department 4 seat.

“I’m not someone who believes we should be eliminating the court,” Councilmember Devon Reese said. “But I do think it’s our exploration to ask what is that function of the court and how can it be a reflection of this council’s values? This is because we create it, we fund it, we give it the directional push that as the council we believe is appropriate for our community as distinct from Justice Court.”

Municipal court judges are required to be licensed attorneys in Nevada and must be qualified electors in Reno who have resided in the state for 6 months and within the city limits for 30 days.

The council is scheduled to narrow a list of 14 qualified applicants to three finalists at its Nov. 12 meeting. Interviews and a final selection is expected Dec. 2. The top candidate will assume office Jan. 3.

Councilmember Jenny Brekhus said the city’s charter states the seat must be filled within 30 days of vacancy.

“Under the alternative that we wait until January, we just then not follow the charter and not fill it by the end of the month?” she asked.

Shaver said there is conflicting language within the charter. Also, given the timing requirements listed in state law regarding elections, the vacancy did not occur in time to be filled in this year’s general election.

“I think we simply don’t have enough information to make an appointment today,” Reese said. “I believe fundamentally the charter allows us the freedom to make that decision in the future.”

City officials say a longer time frame will provide council members to conduct constituent outreach, have individual conversations with the applicants, and give the top candidate time to transition from their current position.

The appointee will serve until the next general municipal election, which is in 2022. At that time, he or she will be up for election for a 6-year term.

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