UPDATE: Commission finds that family court judge violated rules in custody case

UPDATE JUNE 19: The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline found that family court Judge Rena Hughes violated judicial code when she denied a mother's due process rights by not giving her an opportunity to be heard during a hearing. She also gave the child's father custody as a punitive measure against the mother. 

According to the ruling:

"The Commission found that the finding of contempt and change is custody was not in accordance with Nevada law in that Respondent (Hughes) held the mother in contempt without due process and an opportunity to be heard; and punitively sanctioned the mother by changing custody and awarding temporary and sole physical and legal custody to the father."

Although Judge Hughes claimed that she was acting in the best interests of the child, the Commission voted unanimously that she violated five different rules of the judicial canon. When the commission questioned Hughes about her conduct, they found her explanation was not credible, calling it "disingenuous" and "troubling."

The commission found Judge Hughes failed to uphold and apply the law and failed to be fair and impartial, calling her actions "Legal gymnastics" that "turn the law on its head."  

Click here to read the full report on the findings and discipline.

Explaining that their role is to protect the public, not punish judges, the commission ordered a public reprimand and Judge Hughes was ordered to attend and complete a course at her own expense. The course from the National Judicial College is "Managing Challenging Family Law Cases" in October 2018. The ruling also stated that she would be removed from the bench and barred from serving as a judicial officer if she failed to complete the course within one year.

Hughes' attorney, Bill Terry, says the judge had full authority to do what she did, citing a history of documented hearings regarding parental alienation. Terry says he and his client disagree with the commission's decision and may appeal it. A spokesperson for Family Court declined to comment. 

 

PREVIOUS STORY

A family court judge who's been called a bully on the bench is formally charged with wrongdoing. 

It's a case Contact 13 first reported nearly a year ago. 

"You don't understand! I love her! And I'm gonna miss her so much! Please don't do this to me!" A 12-year-old girl pleading to stay with her mother is ripped from the home and life she'd known for three years since her parents' divorce.

Instead of understanding, Family Court Judge Rena Hughes made threats that can be heard in a video which surfaced last year. 

"If you have any difficulties, [the child] will go to Child Haven,' says Judge Hughes. "It's not fun in Child Haven. In fact, they put you in a holding cell. Just like it would be jail."

That was June 2016 as Judge Hughes drastically changed the young girl's world--taking primary custody away from the mother and giving sole custody to the father instead.

Judge Hughes held the girl's mother, Welthy, in contempt. So Welthy filed a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline.

"My civil rights and my daughter's civil rights were violated clearly," says Welthy.

The custody case was transferred to another judge who gave Welthy joint physical custody last July. 

And last week, the state filed charges, accusing Judge Hughes of incompetence and abusing her authority. The Commission says Hughes failed to uphold and apply the law and failed to be fair and impartial when she held Welthy in contempt without due process and the chance to be heard.  They say taking Welthy's child away as punishment for contempt is against Nevada law. The Commission also accuses Judge Hughes of failing "...to be patient, dignified and courteous."

"The way the court systems twist these things and do not listen to children is horrifying," says Welthy. "Not only in my case. There are so many cases in every courtroom. In every state. These judges need to start listening to children. And all of the nonsense would end."

When we asked for a response to the charges filed against Judge Hughes, Clark County Family Court referred us to the judge's personal attorney and declined further comment.  

Hughes' attorney also declined comment but said they intend to deny each of the violations. 

The case will be scheduled for a formal hearing. 

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