How often does a judge get "randomly" assigned to two unrelated civil trials going on at the same time that include the same litigant? Never - until now!
The court system in Clark County provides for a random selection process that assigns judges to cases. This process was meant to guarantee - until recently - that the same judge would not preside over two or more unrelated trials at the same time that include a common or shared litigant.
This process, in fairness, is also designed to help judges avoid the appearance of impropriety that would result if one particular judge seemed to always be selected to preside over cases brought for or against one particular party.
Clark County District Court Judge Nancy M. Saitta is the exception to the rule.
On July 30, 1997, the family of Scott David Fau filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Crazy Horse Too topless joint owner Frederick Rizzolo. This case was "randomly" assigned to Judge Saitta and is currently awaiting jury trial in her court.
Then on September 19, 2000, Frederick Rizzolo filed a libel lawsuit against his neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier. This case was also "randomly" assigned to Judge Saitta and is currently in the discovery stages.
It is not implausible that testimony in one case could possibly affect the impartiality of the Judge also hearing the second case. Because of the coincidence, Judge Saitta was asked to step down, but in both cases she refused.
In another coincidence, Frederick Rizzolo was one of four major financial contributors to Judge Saitta's most recent political campaign. This in itself is not a legal reason for disqualification but is worth mentioning.
A wrongful death action, and a libel action, have nothing in common. However, in both current cases Frederick Rizzolo is a party. He is the Defendant in Fau case while he is the Plaintiff in the Barrier case.
Two Peremptory Challenges were filed against Judge Saitta, one relating to each case. In both instances Rizzolo filed a motion to squelch the Peremptory Challenge and succeeded in retaining Judge Saitta.
In the meantime, Judge Saitta granted motions made by Rizzolo that adversely affected the opposing party.
One motion she granted forced Barrier to pay part of Rizzolo's legal bill. The other motion, which Saitta later reversed, dismissed Fau's wrongful death case entirely just weeks before it was scheduled to go to jury trial. (When new evidence was submitted she reinstated the case. Rizzolo is appealing her decision).
Both motions Judge Saitta granted caused those opposing Rizzolo to expend large sums of money to fight the motions - money Fau and Barrier did not readily have.
In 1999, the Las Vegas Tribune began covering stories about Frederick Rizzolo's legal travails. In 2000, Rizzolo filed a baseless slander suit against the Las Vegas Tribune.
This action was randomly assigned to Judge Alan Earl, but later reassigned to Judge Nancy Saitta after Rizzolo successfully made a motion to have it combined with his case against Barrier - a man who's plight the Tribune has supported.
Cannon 2 of the NEVADA CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT states:
"A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
It is very irregular that this judge has not yet recused from one or more of the simultaneous cases affecting Rizzolo's well being. Maybe the time has come for Judge Nancy M. Saitta to spend a few minutes reviewing Cannon 2.
Las Vegas Tribune © 2001-2002