Judge Egan Walker of Washoe’s Second Judicial District Court on Wednesday said he would not hear a complaint filed in his court alleging harassment and retaliation by local attorney Marilyn York and her father Ray York.
He said he was effectively “hitting the reset button” on the case to give the plaintiff, public defender Tirzah Mathews, and her attorney Jason Guinasso a chance to redraft their complaint to stick with facts and remove salacious, irrelevant details.
The reset, Walker said, would also clear up the messy web of motions and amendments filed in the case by lawyers on both sides.
Mathews is suing the Yorks claiming Ray “groomed” her for sexual exploitation. Mathews was hired by Marilyn York into her law firm in 2021, moved to Reno and began living in Ray’s RV at his residence.
She alleges Ray then started engaging in inappropriate, sexually harassing behavior toward her.
During the 45-minute proceeding, Walker held up a large three-ring binder that contained the 384-page complaint and exhibits, of which he said only 41 pages were the actual complaint.
The rest were exhibits, often not tied to specific portions of the complaint, Walker said, and that included salacious language intended more for front-page news coverage than actual legal consideration.
“This complaint was meant for an audience different than me,” Walker said, noting that the complaint and several exhibits had been distributed with a press release by Mathews’ attorney Guinasso to the news media in January. The release was sent to Reno news outlets and others in Elko, Carson City and Las Vegas.
In his ruling, Judge Walker said he would stay the motions to dismiss filed by attorneys for the Yorks while Guinasso revised the complaint to address the issues Walker pointed out.
“I would suggest that less is more,” Walker told Guinasso.
“I believe through the lens I’m describing today the assertions at least against Mr. York are true,” he added. “Prove it at trial. Don’t try this case to the press. Don’t try it to popular opinion. Don’t try it to the audience. Try it to me and the jury. And craft the complaint with that goal in mind.”
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Guinasso, who said he was taken off guard by Judge Walker’s comments, contended that in some cases he drafts the complaint with particulars that inform the court and the public because some cases are matters of public concern.
“I get it Mr. Guinasso, but nowhere in the rule does it say you get to draft to the audience,” Judge Walker replied. “It doesn’t say that you get to draft to the public.”
Legal complaints are directed to be written as a “short, plain, concise statement of the facts” to give defendants notice of the claims, Walker added.
Marilyn York’s attorney Mark Simons argued against the stay for his motion to dismiss the case, saying that the facts had already been laid out and Mathews and Guinasso shouldn’t get a second chance to rewrite the facts.
“I believe they have to be held to what they’ve already plead,” Simons said. “You’re giving him another shot at recrafting… and that’s what concerns me.”
Walker said there is liberal permission based on precedence in the courts for complaints to be revised throughout legal proceedings.
Ray York’s attorney filed with the court notices that he intends to subpoena Guinasso, employees at the Hutchison & Steffen law firm where Guinasso works,and where Mathews was employed, as well as the AG’s office, CVS Pharmacy, Google, AT&T and others.
Simons has requested Guinasso be removed from the case.
“Guinasso and [Hutchison & Steffen] made the intentional decision to disregard the baseless nature of the claims asserted,” he wrote. “Under either scenario, Guinasso’s and H&S’s conduct exposes their client Mathews to liability for sanctions, damages and legal fees…”
Walker said that future discussions on possible sanctions against Guinasso may take place.
This is the second time Walker admonished attorneys in the case. In February Walker mainly chastised Guinasso for what he said were attorneys in the case “creating emergencies.”