Ethics Questions Arise in Judge Russell’s Special Election Ruling

Should Carson City Judge and special election “ballot royale” squasher James Todd Russell have disclosed the fact that he co-owns land with Republican candidate Mark Amodei?

Judicial ethics rules do state that judges should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Ralston’s got the full scoop including remarks Russell made to the Reno Gazette-Journal‘s Ray Hagar and the judicial canons that apply.

In a nutshell, Russell did not disclose that he and Amodei own a mining claim worth about $500, even though Amodei was (1) the chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, which was the plaintiff in the lawsuit before Russell concerning special election rules and (2) a candidate who would benefit (or not) from Russell’s ruling.

As it turned out, Russell ruled that the Republican and Democratic Party central committees would nominate the candidates, so Amodei did benefit. The Nevada Supreme Court later upheld Russell’s ruling.

Russell claims he did not know whether Amodei was running (I guess he was the only person in the state who hadn’t yet heard the news), and that Amodei himself was not a party to the lawsuit (i.e. that the Party was the party).

Even so, as Ralston wrote:

…Russell’s strange ethics taint the process and raise questions about his lack of disclosure and relationship with Amodei.


  • Mr. W

    Co-Owned???  Half of $500??  OMG!!  Major Scandal!!!  Right up there with Obama and Reid’s real estate deals with criminals!  I hope the punishment is the same.

  • Bernie

    The fact that the Supreme Court upheld (6-1) the District Court’s ruling indicates that Judge Russell got it right.  Lawyers and others frequently donate much larger amounts (than $500.00) to get judges elected but those campaign donations are not grounds for disqualifying the judge from a case in Nevada.  Besides Amodei had a number of opponents for the nomination when the case went to trial.