Campaign statement: Public defender challenges Porter for judge’s seat

Elko County native Kriston Hill has entered the race for Department 1 judge of the Fourth Judicial District Court, a position currently held by Judge Nancy Porter. Her campaign released the following statement on Friday.

Kriston Hill has zealously served the underprivileged with dedication and compassion since becoming an attorney in 2010. In 2015, Hill became one of the youngest women public defenders in the United States when the Elko County Commissioners appointed her to lead the Elko County Public Defenders’ Office. At the Elko County Public Defenders’ Office, Hill ensures that the Constitutional rights of those accused of crimes are protected. She was instrumental in expanding the protections provided to those accused of crimes by providing attorneys to be present at all stages of the court process — at no additional cost to taxpayers. She has been honored on three separate occasions by Nevada Legal Services for providing free legal services to those who cannot afford them. Hill was the first recipient of the Andrew J. Puccinelli award of pro bono excellence in 2012.

Hill is a firm believer that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Hill knows firsthand that criminal proceedings in Department 1 are significantly delayed, resulting in additional costs to taxpayers and delayed justice for victims. It takes several months before defendants, who are in jail, are arraigned in Judge Porter’s courtroom. In Department 2, Judge Kacin generally arraigns defendants in about a month. In stark contrast, Department 1 routinely takes two to three months to hold arraignments. This delay costs taxpayers approximately $85 per day to house inmates. Even short delays are extremely costly. The difference between holding an inmate for a month and three months is over $5,000. That is money that could be better spent elsewhere in our community. It is the ongoing lack of efficiency in Department 1 that prompted Hill to run for office.

When Hill expressed her interest in running to others, she found that significant delays in Department 1 were not unique to the criminal cases. Civil cases, including matters that affect everyday citizens such as guardianship and probate matters, are also being delayed, sometimes for months. What is most troubling to Hill is that family law matters — divorce and child custody cases — are also being delayed.

The Supreme Court of Nevada has rules stating that district courts must resolve all child custody issues within six months. This rule was established in recognition of the fact that, while a case is pending, the lives of all family members are in turmoil, with children being especially impacted by the uncertainty surrounding custody proceedings. While a divorce is pending, the parties cannot move on, people cannot heal, and children suffer. Department 1 is far from being in compliance with the six month guideline issued by the Supreme Court of Nevada. Hill believes this is wrong, and, if elected, promises to bring efficiency back to Department 1 by holding more frequent hearings and issuing orders in a timely fashion.

Hill was also Judge Mike Memeo’s law clerk. As a result, Hill is fully aware how busy the courts are and was able to observe how an efficient and effective court should be run. Hill is accustomed to a massive caseload that is mostly deadline driven. Hill is running to bring efficiency back to Department 1, to stop the drain on taxpayer dollars, and to bring closure to victims and families.

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