June-July 2020

©2020 Clark County Bar Association. The content on this page was originally published in the “Mental Health” issue of COMMUNIQUÉ* (June/July 2020).* This issue features content written by members of Nevada’s legal community including:

Click cover image to download full 40-page issue (3 MB PDF file).

Additional content may be found in the full color issue of the publication (print and PDF versions), including:

  • Bar Activities
  • Legal Spotlight
  • Member Moves
  • New Members
  • Court News
  • The Marketplace

Special thanks to the following advertisers for their support of Communiqué* (June/July 2020):


Navigating in the Dark

By Mariteresa Rivera-Rogers, Esq.

Our signature event, Meet Your Judges Mixer, which had been re-scheduled for July 23, 2020, will be cancelled and not take place at all this year. Our next Meet Your Judges Mixer will be held on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. This is not the news we wanted to deliver. By now, you may not be surprised to hear about another event cancellation because of COVID-19. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, navigating in the dark and coping with continuous disruptions to our lives can take a toll on mental health.

The theme for this month’s issue is Mental Health. Most of us to one degree or another are dealing with a totally different way of practicing law under the constraints imposed by this pandemic. The practice of law in itself is stressful enough on any given day, whether you are dealing with deadlines, court appearances, research, or hourly billings, you bear a great responsibility on behalf of your clients. No matter what kind of law you practice, you must constantly stay on top of not only your cases, but also the financial wellness of your firm or your family. Nowadays, with so many protocols set by the CDC and the state of Nevada, restrictions for setting court hearings, and the priorities that have been set by the courts, it is also important to realize no one wants this state of affairs. We need to practice civility amongst ourselves and with the court. Professionalism and civility are at the core of a great lawyer. Making concessions not normally made in regular times may be needed. It is not easy to give away a tactical advantage.

So, how are you handling all these things right now? Are you working from home? Are you using Zoom, Blue Jeans, Teams, or other programs to communicate remotely? Probably, your commute to work got a lot better, although at the cost of many added stressors. The authors who have written articles for you in this issue will provide pointers or guidance on how to handle those stressors and confirm you are not alone. Mental wellness is essential to navigate in this muddy present. Predictions are more like premonitions, data is scarce, knowledge is lacking and planning has gone out the window. Patience is what we need.

Don’t forget the State Bar of Nevada also provides great resources for its members:

  • Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers: Confidential peer support for Nevada attorneys in need of support to get in—or stay—in recovery. Weekly closed-door meetings held statewide.
  • Nevada Lawyer Assistance Program: Clinical services for attorneys suffering from abuse, addiction and/or mental health issues which may impair professional competence. The program is staffed by clinical professionals statewide and when sought voluntarily, the initial assessment is provided at no charge to the attorney.
  • Therapy Benefit: This member benefit offers therapist referrals. If an attorney wants assistance in dealing with a difficult life situation, such as divorce, depression, stress, the death of a loved one, a traumatic case, or any other stressful incident/situation, he or she can request the name of a therapist by calling 1-866-828-0022. The first three sessions are provided at no charge. The inquiry and subsequent three sessions are completely confidential.

See State Bar of Nevada, https://www.nvbar.org/member-services-3895/wellness/, 5/7/2020.

We want you to know we are here for you. Please let us know if there is anything else you want us to address in future issues. Your suggestions are welcome.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The CCBA has a published a list of health and wellness resources in the print magazine Communiqué (June/July 2020, see below) and on the bar’s website at https://www.clarkcountybar.org/resources/health-and-wellness-resources/.]

Mariteresa Rivera-Rogers, Esq. is an associate at the Las Vegas criminal defense firm Wright Marsh & Levy. Her areas of practice include criminal law and juvenile law. She is fluent in Spanish, and both the federal and state courts recognize her as a certified court interpreter. Mariteresa is a committee member of the AOC Judicial Council of the State of Nevada Language Access, the Interpreter Certification Advisory Committee, and the Clark County Indigent Defense Selection and Appointment Committee. Her spirit of community and professional service has also led to involvement with the Latino Bar Association, Southern Nevada Association of Women Attorneys, Clark County Law Foundation, and Nevada Supreme Court Task Force on Racial and Economic Bias. Mariteresa serves as president of the Clark County Bar Association through December of 2020.


How to Manage Stress While Working from Home from the Toolkit of a Lawyer-Mom of Three

Brittnie T. Watkins

By Brittnie T. Watkins, Esq., LL.M., Ph.D.

Some states and businesses are reopening, but many of us are still working from home. I have now been working from home for one month, three weeks, and one day. Rather than meticulously carving tally marks into a wall to count the passing days, I have incorporated other practices to stay well. I hope sharing them provides similar benefits to you as we continue to navigate work, family, and organizational responsibilities amid the various complexities brought on by our changing environment.

Many of us are surprised by the amount of stress we feel working from home. I certainly was. Working from home has its comforts, but it also has hidden stressors related to lack of structure, constant distractions, difficulty setting boundaries, increased social isolation, and impaired focus. Elizabeth Scott, How to Handle the Stress of Working from Home, verywellmind (March 17, 2020), https://www.verywellmind.com/the-stress-of-working-from-home-4141174. The practical tips below observe how we can minimize stress and enjoy the comforts.

Keep a schedule, loosely

If I were to take the work-when-I-find-the-time approach, work would never get done. Something always needs attention. Developing a schedule supports structure and focus. Ownership of your schedule can be liberating but failing to actually follow one can leave you feeling derailed by distractions that perpetually demand your attention.

On the other hand, strict adherence to a time-stamped schedule can be even more stressful than it is worth. I use a task-oriented schedule that sounds more in order of operation than start and stop times. For example: Morning—fold laundry and perform research; Afternoon—draft opposition brief and enter time; Evening—make spaghetti and take the kids for a walk. Most importantly, your schedule has to work for you, but you should work when you are at your best. I am at my best early in the morning, so I work first and play later (unless of course there is more work to be done, like drafting the CCBA feature due Friday). Inevitably, we get off schedule, but I feel encouraged and empowered by having a framework for the day.

Stay connected, but remember to unplug

Working remotely can make us feel isolated from our friends, family, and colleagues, taking away the systems and energy we once relied on to stay motivated. We can reclaim our social lives by scheduling Zoom meetings with friends and colleagues, creating text message groups, or utilizing social media. The goal is to create networks of people with shared perspectives and beliefs, who you can lean on when needed. We can continue to explore creative ways to celebrate milestones through virtual connections. I attended a virtual birthday party that boasted a game of Family Feud, a talent show, and even a Powerpoint complete with photo memories from the birthday boy’s previous parties, social distancing not included. To the point, physical distance does not need to mean social distance. But just as over-scheduling can be stressful, so too can spending too much time on our phones and computers. To stay connected while staying well, take time to turn away from social messages and return to in-person connections with your “quarantine buddies.”

Take a shower, and enjoy it

This is one of my favorites. Of course I enjoyed showering before COVID-19, but with a wandering one-year-old, argumentative five-year-old, and frequently distracted thirteen-year-old, I often rushed through showers with the goal of just getting clean. Now, with another adult home, additional shower time replaces commute time, and the goal of a shower is more therapeutic. Prolonged showers drastically improve my disposition and yield some of my best ideas. So, take as much time as you need, wash away stressors, and emerge ready to reengage.

Shut the door, when necessary

This one is the toughest. I feel guilty shutting the door to my room to work while my children are home. It feels like I am shutting them out, but for work that requires intense concentration, it is a must. This simple, physical barrier leads to increased efficiency and focus—things that have proven more illusory these days. Unless it sounds like an emergency, when they come knocking, I reply, “Go ask your dad!”

Be kind, to yourself

We are all doing our best in a challenging environment, and no one is doing it perfectly. Think about structure but understand that there will be chaos. After all, that is exactly what informed these tips. If we focus on doing what we can, working from home can be enjoyable. And we can only do our best.

Brittnie T. Watkins, Esq., LL.M., Ph.D. is an attorney at PISANELLI BICE PLLC, practicing complex commercial litigation. She is also a Communiqué editor and vice president of the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association.


COVID-19 Stress Manifesting in the Workplace: An Increase in COVID-19 Whistleblower and Retaliation Claims?

By Patrick Hicks, Esq. and Kelsey Stegall, Esq.

Patrick Hicks
Kelsey Stegall

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers will be facing multiple challenges in transitioning employees back to work. This includes an increased risk of whistleblower and retaliation claims by employees who allege they were disciplined or discharged for complaining about health or safety concerns relating to the virus. Indeed, there has already been an increase in complaints filed by employees who physically worked in essential businesses, as opposed to working from home, after Governor Steve Sisolak ordered Nevadans to stay at home. These complaints stemmed from a lack of personal protective equipment, social distancing, and other health and safety measures that were implemented during the pandemic—measures designed to reduce employee stress but that are not always successful.

Legal ramifications of whistleblower complaints

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) is responsible for enforcing a wide variety of anti-retaliation provisions at the federal level under 23 separate whistleblower statutes. While many employers are familiar with claims under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety & Health (“OSH”) Act, which broadly protects employees, remedies under Section 11(c) are limited, a private cause of action is not available to the complaining party, and a worker must file their complaint within 30 days of an adverse job action. However, OSHA also enforces additional statutory provisions that may provide more expansive remedies to the prevailing party, including attorney’s fees and punitive damages in some instances.

Beyond the Section 11(c) claims that may be filed under the OSH Act, employers can also face additional exposure and risks when employees use alternative statutory remedies to raise complaints about an employer’s response to COVID-19.

The risk for employers under certain federal anti-retaliation laws is also increased because a lower causation standard—the “contributing factor” standard—may be applicable in some instances. Specifically, under certain federal anti-retaliation laws, a complaining party may establish that they have a viable claim that should be heard by proving, among other things, that a retaliatory motive played a “contributing factor” in the adverse employment decision. In addition, under the OSH Act, complainants generally do not need to show the alleged violation they complained about actually took place. A viable retaliation claim requires only that they had, among other things, a “good faith” basis for making the allegation in the first instance, which is a low bar to clear. Because statutes vary, in a retaliation case brought by an employee complaining about health and safety issues relating to COVID-19, the precise burden of proof will depend upon the law used to pursue the claim.

Moreover, federal law is not the only source of protection for employees pursuing complaints related to health and safety practices. A majority of states recognize some form of wrongful discharge claim under anti-retaliation statutes or under common law, including Nevada. Employees may be entitled to significant damages if they prove that an employer took adverse action against them because they raised a health and safety concern.

Takeaways

In this unprecedented environment for both employers and employees, employers should be mindful and empathetic of the stressors many of their employees have experienced—and are still experiencing. In transitioning individuals back to the workplace, employers should first and foremost focus on creating a healthy and happy workplace to ease their employees’ concerns.

Simultaneously, employers should be especially vigilant to enforce anti-retaliation policies and procedures when health and safety complaints do arise. Some practical considerations include:

  • Promote your employee assistance programs. Communicate the resources available to your employees in an effort to alleviate their stress and anxiety. There are so many services available through these employee assistance programs, such as stress management, counseling, and wellness programs, that will help employees address their stress head-on rather than have it manifest elsewhere.
  • Encourage employees to report their health and safety concerns. Create multiple reporting options, including options that allow employees to immediately raise their concerns. Clearly communicate these options to employees.
  • Address the concerns raised with empathy and compassion. Follow up individually where possible, and companywide with periodic updates as necessary. An empathetic response will help employees feel heard and alleviate their feelings of stress.
  • Employees should never be disciplined or terminated because they raised or escalated complaints about a potential violation of health and safety laws or procedures, including concerns regarding the employer’s response to COVID-19. While there may be independent, non-retaliatory reasons for taking adverse action against a complaining employee, any decision regarding the adverse action should not take into account, or be influenced by, the health or safety complaint.
  • If independent reasons justify disciplinary action against a complaining employee, the employer should ensure the reasons are properly documented, consistent with the company’s policies and procedures, and that other employees who engaged in similar conduct, but did not complain of health and safety concerns, received the same disciplinary action.
  • Document the specifics of each health and safety complaint, including the time and date, the recipient of the complaint, and the specific concerns that were raised.
  • Review and update the company’s policies and procedures that prohibit retaliation, and consider setting aside additional training time now to help reinforce the company’s anti-retaliation rules, and to help prevent retaliation claims from arising.

Ultimately, take health and safety complaints seriously. How your law firm or company responds and adapts to the COVID-19 virus will have a lasting impression on your employees. Leadership, communication, and behavior will set the tone for how employees feel in returning to the workplace and can help alleviate the stress and anxiety that many are already experiencing. Accordingly, take as many steps as possible to prevent health and safety complaints, but if they do arise, take the proper actions consistent with your policies and procedures.

Patrick Hicks, Esq. is the founding shareholder of the Nevada offices of Littler Mendelson. He focuses his practice on representing employers in litigation and court on employment law issues.

Kelsey Stegall, Esq. is an attorney in the Littler Mendelson Las Vegas office. After graduating from Boyd School of Law and clerking in federal court, she now represents employers in employment law matters.


Mentally Preparing for a Wrongful Death Case

Donald Kudler

By Donald Kudler, Esq.

As an attorney, there are few cases more emotionally draining than wrongful death lawsuits. When you take on a case of this nature, you do not act solely as a trusted legal advisor to the relatives of the deceased. In many instances, you will also be forced to function as something of a grief counselor.

Aside from dealing with the weight of expectations that are placed upon your shoulders by the grieving family, you must also come to terms with the fact that your lawsuit could potentially bankrupt a local business or a resident of your city. If you are successful in your pursuit of compensation, the defendant may be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars – or more.

With so much on the line, what can you do to stay grounded and calm throughout your wrongful death case?

How to get through a wrongful death case

Every lawyer has a different approach to dealing with the stresses and strains of draining wrongful death cases. However, a brief list of some of the tips that you are likely to find most helpful would include:

Being honest with the grieving family

When you first meet with the relatives of the deceased party, it is essential that you be as honest as possible with them. Let them know what a wrongful death lawsuit entails, making sure to specifically mention that it is likely to be long and draining. And be sure to tell them that, although you will work tirelessly on behalf of their loved one, there is never a guarantee that the case will work out in their favor.

Later, if the case may need to be litigated, let them know that their involvement will be necessary and discuss the fact that they may need to talk about their feelings at both a deposition and at trial when discussing whether or not they want to go forward. Of course, they have to be fully prepared for the questions to come at both the deposition and at trial. Take extra care to let them know if the defendant is going to attack them at the deposition or trial or has any information that will be used against them. Make sure they understand you are on their side and will protect them and object as necessary and appropriate.

Do not, under any circumstances, make any promises about attaining a specific monetary outcome. Similarly, you should never guarantee that you will achieve justice for their family member.

By being upfront with the family about what they should expect during the legal process, you can take a lot of weight off your shoulders. As a result, you will be able to spend less time worrying and more time focused on the case at hand.

Exercising regularly

Whether you prefer to go for a brisk walk around town on your lunch break or swim a few laps in your local pool after work, exercising regularly can be a superb way of relieving the anxiety you feel while working on a wrongful death case. Working up a sweat every day can:

  • Encourage your brain to release feel-good endorphins
  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Increase your self-confidence
  • Improve the quality of your sleep

If aerobic exercise is not your cup of tea, you may wish to take up yoga or pilates instead. Doing so can help you become much more relaxed and mindful.

Making time for your friends and family

When you are working on a wrongful death suit, it can be tempting to spend every moment of your day researching case law and requesting documents. Should you choose to do so, however, you are likely to feel extraordinarily stressed out before too long.

If you wish to remain grounded as you work through the case, it is vital that you set some time aside to relax and unwind with your family and friends. During this time, you should try to do something that will take your mind off the lawsuit. Going to the zoo, watching movies, visiting theme parks, and attending concerts are all excellent options.

Discussing the case with other attorneys

Many lawyers find that the best way to deal with a particularly difficult case is to speak with another member of the legal profession. If you are lucky, they may be able to provide you with some tips that can help you with the suit.

However, even if they do not have any words of wisdom, it is at least helpful to be able to talk to someone who understands the stress you are dealing with. You might be surprised how much stress you can take off your shoulders during a brief chat over some delicious steaks.

Speaking with a therapist

When clients need legal help, they turn to attorneys just like you. So, if the stress of your wrongful death suit is becoming unbearable, do not be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help from time to time.

The primary role of your therapist will be to listen to your concerns and provide you with coping mechanisms to deal with your issues. However, if your suffering is intense, they may be able to prescribe you some medication to ease your anxiety a little

Donald Kudler, Esq. has been a practicing attorney in Nevada since 1993. In 2004, he partnered with Allen Cap to create the law firm of Cap and Kudler – a firm that specializes in wrongful death and Las Vegas personal injury law.


The Myth of the Work-Life Balance

Lisa J. Zastrow

By Lisa J. Zastrow, Esq.

As an eight year old child, at the dinner table I would use a large chunk of sweet white onion fresh from my mother’s garden as a spoon for delivering bites of delicious mashed potatoes into my mouth. My step-dad, who passed away in September, would look at me with a puzzled face and lovingly say “eewh, that’s gross” every single time for over a decade. This same man on a near daily basis would empty an entire pack of salty peanuts into his Mountain Dew and say “ah, that’s delicious” while my sister and I laughed and said “eewh, that’s gross.” We are all different. Our desires, needs, drive, ethics – tastes – are all different. Our differences are evident. Yet as a society, most of our institutional systems seek to box us into categories that may not always address our unique qualities. This is true with respect to the practice of law. As a human, mental health issues present uniquely, yet our profession requires a robotic deference to a litany of rules. The two “rules” most often imposed are: (1) extreme billable hours in private practice; and (2) unrestrained workloads.

“By law’s dark byways he has stored his mind with wicked knowledge of how to cheat mankind”- author unknown

Here is a dirty little secret not taught in my folksy little law school in Oklahoma. During some point in your career as an attorney, practicing law will deny your unique qualities and demand a certain amount of conformity. The example I always use only relates to private practice, but is an easy target and has caused me debilitating internal conflict. I have found myself in law firms honoring the “high billable” hour over wins, ethics, and quality of work. As a young attorney, this model teaches associates that a robotic practice of entering time, making sure to capture all of the .1’s, will advance your career faster than quality work. This practice can also result in pervasive inflated billing, which is not challenged in many firms because more billable hours is more revenue.

In those firms, I was never reminded of Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(a)(5) which limits all billable hour engagements to actual time worked. I was certainly never reminded of NRCP 1.1 which requires competence in the representation of the client, including skill and thoroughness. As attorneys, many of us entered the practice expecting to spend our days fighting for justice, making arguments, pouring through information looking for a smoking gun, and doing all of the substantive things that we actually still do. But when the praise comes from the “billable hour,” it can be mentally conflicting and disturbing to many in the practice, causing vast cynicism and burnout.

There is virtually no way for attorneys to spend all their waking hours “billing hours” while still devoting time to their family, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and staying true to their personal moral compass. Yet, in all of these firms I was routinely the recipient of newsletters or firm wide emails touting the importance of “work-life” balance.

It’s all a rouse.

These institutions are founded on the single goal of cheating mankind at all cost for the sake of money or power, or both. They will never change. There is a negative inertia that is created from leadership that will not transform.

Tip #1: If you are working in practice and find yourself up against institutional norms that are poison to your soul and will never change (my example was the billable hour badge of honor), you must quit your job. Find another job first, then quit. Sayonara. Exit stage left.

I am not suggesting that earning a good salary or compensation is not a worthy goal, it is. But compromising ethics and your health and happiness for money and power or praise from unethical leadership, or by allowing yourself to be reduced to a machine, is a recipe for burnout.

“The human mind is a very fallible thing, but it’s the only thing that I can really know…” – Grimes

The practice often denies the existence of human fallibility. How many times have you submitted a proposed stipulation to extend discovery deadlines because <insert reason here> only to have the “stipulated” order denied. Your “due diligence” reason did not cut it with whomever the judge was. Hopefully, this does not happen to you often (certainly not in the Eighth Judicial District Court or U.S. District Court of Southern Nevada, wink wink Judges to whom I appear often), yet anyone who has practiced law in any jurisdiction for more than a decade understands this example. My point is simple: we are human, but our profession demands perfection.

Moreover, many times we find ourselves seeking extensions and making mistakes because we do not have the ability to say no to more work. As fallible humans, the more tasks we are responsible for, the more things will fall through the cracks. Picture yourself juggling three balls, then 30 balls, then 100 balls…. at what point do you drop a ball? Trust me, when you miss a single ball, they can all come crashing down. If you find yourself in a pattern of constantly seeking extensions, moving deadlines, or juggling 100 balls, you must make some changes. I was once told in a firm that “this is the practice of law” and to “get used to it.” That was ingrained in me and when I could not juggle all the balls, I believed I was an incompetent failure. I have had many epiphanies in my career and one came when I had spent a few months in that firm on one case all the way to victory and the client thanked me, repeatedly, for the focus and work on her behalf. The partner whom I was working for did not offer any thanks, was angered by my devotion to the client, felt I had developed too close a relationship with this client; yet this partner was no doubt happy to see all of those billable hours. See, this partner and this firm denied not only my fallible human qualities, but my personality. I knew then a change would come soon.

It does not make me a bad attorney because I am unable to juggle 100 balls. I am fallible. I am human. And it does not make me a bad attorney because I am not a machine and I build relationships with clients who appreciate the attention to their matters as their careers are on the line.

Tip #2: Accept that you are human and fallible and learn to say no when you are juggling too many balls lest they all come crashing down.

Let me end with a few final thoughts and tip. In September 2017, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) created a Working Group (“Group”) to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession. The Group soon launched a pledge asking legal employers to take steps to raise awareness to improve lawyer well-being after increasing levels of alcoholism, mental health problems, and suicides in the profession. See https://americanbar.org. The pledge includes, among other promises to “disrupt the status quo of drinking-based events,” “provide confidential access to addiction and mental health experts and resources to all employees, including free, in-house self-assessment tools,” and “highlighting the adoption of this well-being framework to attract and retain the best lawyers and staff.” Id.

So let us get this straight, firms can “pledge” to acknowledge what is already widely known, deemphasize booze at events, and give “access” to self-assessment tools. Ah, but certainly retain the best lawyers and staff. Newsflash – individuals with mental health issues and addictions do not seek these tools, certainly not from their employers, thus making tools available is not helpful. It may create a touchy feely press release for the ABA or for your firm should it sign the pledge, but improve the life of the lawyer it does not.

Most attorneys in firms would never make their addictions or personal health issues known to management for fear of losing their jobs and those fears are legitimate. You don’t believe me? Walk on into your managing partner’s office and tell him or her that you spend your evenings knee deep in pills and alcohol and trolling the funniest “being a lawyer sucks” Instagram memes. Watch the look on his or her face turn from viewing you as a reliable billable source – to pity.

There are exceptions to this general rule and my firm is certainly one. I knew it when I called up my now managing partner years ago and said to him “I want to work with you or I’m going to work at the mall because I hear Victoria’s Secret is hiring.” I was hitting burnout. I was convinced the practice of law was a gutter career, but I called him because the firm defends lawyers and I decided that is what I needed to do. I said to the managing partner, “I am tired of working to make my bosses more money on the backs of insane billable hours, at the expense of my integrity and dignity, spending my evenings doubting my worth and doubting my qualities as a human.”

Tip #3: Trust your gut and follow your passion.

If you are an attorney, you are worthy of happiness. Work in an office that holds your moral norms to the highest and allows you to juggle the right amount of balls. Forget about trying to find a balance. When you begin sleeping well at night, you will know you are in the right place.

Lisa J. Zastrow, Esq. is a Partner at Lipson Neilson PC and has two decades of success as a trial, administrative law and appellate attorney. After spending a majority of her career in the male dominated world of commercial litigation, Lisa course corrected and found renewed passion defending attorneys and professionals in malpractice lawsuits and before administrative bodies.


COVID-19 and Pro Bono

Noah Malgeri

By Noah Malgeri, Esq.

Several areas of need for our pro bono clients at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada have emerged during the current COVID-19 pandemic. As I wrote last month in this space, one of the greatest such needs is volunteer attorneys to represent children in the foster care system through our Children’s Attorney Project (CAP). Many of our great colleagues have taken the free, two-hour online CLE we offer to become accredited to represent a foster child through CAP, and have gone on to help many of our community’s most vulnerable children.

As the present health crisis and the associated lock down have progressed, other areas of great need for our community have come into sharper relief. The Legal Aid Center has hosted a series of virtual town halls addressing critical legal topics for members of the local community, partners, agencies, and anyone interested in learning more about the legal implications of the consequences of COVID-19.

As so many Las Vegas residents have been forced to forgo income during this time, one are of great concern is maintaining their housing situation until they can return to work. Many of our neighbors have turned to Legal Aid Center staff and volunteers to help them hang on to their lease during these challenging times. On April 29, Legal Aid Center hosted a free COVID-19 online Landlord Tenant CLE for our volunteers to provide some clarity on the current landlord tenant legal situation.

Of course, another area of confusion concerns employment and unemployment rights during COVID-19. On April 10, Legal Aid Center hosted a free, virtual town hall for locals worried about their employment situation. Local pro bono superstars, Christian Gabroy and JP Kemp, donated several hours to prepare and present timely information and to answer common questions submitted by virtual attendees.

On May 8, Legal Aid Center pro bono superstars, Gian Brown and Jay Devoy of Holland & Hart, presented part three in our series, this time addressing current issues small business owners are facing, such as executive orders, how to deal with leases and rent, navigating select contract issues, an overview of Small Business Administration loans, and considerations for reopening business. As always, participants had the opportunity to submit questions to the presenters.

I encourage all CCBA attorney members to get involved by volunteering their unique skills to help our neighbors in need get through this incredibly challenging time. We will all be better for it! If you have any questions about past or upcoming Legal Aid Center content and events, or have questions about how to apply your expertise to help out, please contact me at nmalgeri@lacsn.org or 702-386-1429.

Noah Malgeri, Esq. is the Pro Bono Director at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Before coming to Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Mr. Malgeri worked as a patent litigation attorney at three large, national law firms. Prior to private practice, Mr. Malgeri served as a Captain in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. In that capacity, he worked as an international and operational law advisor and criminal prosecutor for U.S. Army, V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany and Iraq. Mr. Malgeri helped to plan and execute the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, for which service he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.


Las Vegas Municipal Court Mental Health Court Program—Progressive Criminal Justice with a Mind Towards a Better Result

Judge Cara Campbell

By Judge Cara Campbell

The Las Vegas Municipal Court Mental Health Specialty Court is a comprehensive treatment program created for non-violent offenders charged with misdemeanor offenses in Las Vegas/Clark County who suffer from a serious mental illness. The program targets those individuals who have a history of hospitalizations due to their mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder, who are likely to continue a pattern of crime if their mental health diagnosis remains untreated.

The Mental Health Specialty Court serves as an alternative to the traditional criminal court process in that it uses a team approach to supervision (similar to that of Drug and Veteran’s courts). The judge, case manager(s), treatment specialists, court coordinator, and housing manager(s) work together to supervise each participant and provide them with individualized treatment and services. This targeted case management includes medication management, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and residential placement.

The treatment team communicates regularly to discuss the progress of each participant. Once a participant has shown consistency with medication stabilization and has leveled-down in therapy, other classes such as family reunification counseling, vocational training, resume- building, and high school equivalency classes are offered.

Participants are required to appear in court on a regular basis to ensure they are progressing with their mental health treatment plan, attending support group meetings, maintaining their sobriety, and following through with any additional conditions set forth by the treatment team, as ordered by the court. Frequent court appearances also give participants an opportunity to address the court with any issues or concerns they have.

The Mental Health Specialty Court program is 18-24 months in duration. In most cases, successful participants have their case dismissed upon graduation. In order to graduate, a participant must demonstrate consistent medication management and stabilization, sobriety, and the ability to remain trouble-free. Ideally, the graduate will have also secured employment and solidified the ability to live independently.

The Las Vegas Municipal Court Mental Health Specialty Court program accepts referrals from other courts, prosecutors, and defense counsel. Participation in Mental Health Specialty Court is voluntary. To be eligible, a candidate must be diagnosed with a severe mental illness, be medication compliant, and have at least two cases pending.

Defendants who have extensive cognitive delay, a criminal history involving crimes of violence, crimes against women and children, drug trafficking or arson, or have a known gang affiliation, will not be eligible to participate.

When properly utilized, specialty court programs such as the Las Vegas Municipal Court Mental Health Specialty Court program, serve to better treat the root of a criminal defendant’s contact with the criminal justice system and decrease recidivism by providing important resources which will improve social functioning and afford participants with opportunities such as employment, housing, treatment, and support.

Applications for the Las Vegas Municipal Court Mental Health Specialty Court program are available at: https://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/Government/Municipal-Court/Specialty-Courts

If you feel a client meets the criteria and would benefit from participation in the program, please submit a completed application and signed Mental Health Court Agreement via email to kbanto@lasvegasnevada.gov and sstern@lasvegasnevada.gov.

Completed applications will be staffed by the Mental Health Court Team the following week. If an individual is deemed appropriate for Mental Health Court, you will be contacted and a Notice of Acceptance will be filed.

Judge Cara Campbell was elected to the Las Vegas Municipal Court in 2017. There, she presides over a primarily criminal misdemeanor docket, as well as the Mental Health Specialty Court.


Educating and Treating Defendants in Mental Health Court

Bita Yeager

By Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez and Hearing Master Bita Yeager

Scientific research has established that mental illness and drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, are caused by diseases of the brain. The Eighth Judicial District Court’s Mental Health Court focuses on educating and treating defendants (“participants” once they are in the program) who suffer from serious mental illnesses that are treated with medication, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and PTSD. Participants learn how to manage their disease and reduce hospitalizations through taking proper medication and using coping skills. As needed, they are taught skills for employment and independent living. Making these significant changes through program participation reduces their likelihood of committing crimes in the future. To accomplish this goal, the court works hand in hand with a team of professionals – the court coordinator (who is a licensed clinician), prosecutors and defense attorneys, probation officers, community mental health case managers, and treatment providers.

Over the last three years, the court has become more effective by increasing the use of evidence-based practices. Clinical assessments of new applicants are now conducted in-person. Through a federal grant partnership with UNLV, the court now uses a gender-responsive risk assessment tool for increased accuracy in addressing each participant’s risk to reoffend. Participants who are high risk for antisocial behavior are now enrolled in specific cognitive behavioral therapies.

The court has found that while increasing positive reinforcement with participants has been an effective tool for success, the greatest incentive for change has been the participant’s realization of the positive difference that treatment has made in their own life. Court hearings frequently involve discussions with the participant about the changes they have experienced, such as understanding how to manage their disease and the devastating symptoms, reconnecting with estranged family members, recognizing and addressing past trauma, building confidence through achievements at school or in employment, feeling the security of a safe environment after years of homelessness, and enjoying the freedom of living as a law-abiding citizen.

The recent pandemic and social distancing directions have forced the court to adjust. Changes to IT have allowed the court to continue holding hearings through video or phone. Medicaid made immediate changes to allow coverage for individual and group therapy through telehealth. The court discovered a robust network of sobriety support meetings that are available to participants through video or phone. Although the court looks forward to a time when participants can again appear in person, the court now has the ability to use other means to support treatment and participation, which has been an unexpected, but welcomed, silver lining.

Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez serves Department XI at the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County Nevada. She handles business and civil cases. Additionally, she oversees the Eighth Judicial District Court’s Mental Health Court, which provides treatment and oversight to defendants from across Nevada.

Hearing Master Bita Yeager handles Specialty Court matters for the Eighth Judicial District Court. She currently presides over Civil Commitment Court, Mental Health Court, and Co-Occurring Disorders Court, which she established in February 2019.


Health and Wellness Resources for CCBA Members

Stephanie Abbott

By Stephanie Abbott

Increased concerns for health and wellness can increase stress and anxiety. Stress, anxiety, and alcohol are a dangerous mix. If you or someone you know is stressed and/or using alcohol (or other substances) to cope, please seek help. The resources listed below may be helpful to Nevada lawyers and are grouped by topic.

COVID-19 Anxiety Resources

Anxiety & Stress

  • Crisis Text Line—To get free confidential, 24/7 support for anxiety, text “HOME” to 741741. Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via a medium people already use and trust: text. See https://www.crisistextline.org/.
  • Suicide Prevention—National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 – The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States.
    Locally, the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to suicide prevention efforts and made possible through their members in the mental and physical health professions, business community, survivors, advocates, and other supporters. Visit the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention website to find out about their local services. See https://nvsuicideprevention.org/.
  • Nevada Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers—Toll Free: 1-866-828-0022. The organization is dedicated to helping State Bar of Nevada members to recover from alcohol and drug addiction, compulsive gambling, stress, and depression.
  • Nevada Lawyer Assistance Program—The Nevada Lawyer Assistance Program (NLAP) was created by the State Bar of Nevada to formalize the clinical services available to attorneys suffering from abuse, addiction, and/or mental health issues which may impair professional competence. See https://www.nvbar.org/member-services-3895/nlap/.
  • “How do you keep down your stress levels at the office?” An online article by Stephen Rynkiewicz with tips on managing stress levels. See https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/how-do-you-reduce-stress.
  • A list of online and telephone support groups for individuals with mental illness, published by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). See https://namimainlinepa.org/online-and-telephone-support-groups/.

Substance Abuse

  • Alcoholics Anonymous—To get help with alcohol problems, call the AA Hotline (702) 598-1888 for the Las Vegas Central Office for Alcoholics Anonymous. See http://www.lvcentraloffice.org/.
  • In the Rooms—In The Rooms is a free online recovery tool that offers 130 weekly online meetings for those recovering from addiction and related issues. We embrace multiple pathways to recovery, including all 12 Step, Non-12 Step, Wellness and Mental Health modalities. See https://www.intherooms.com/home/.
  • Al-Anon—Al-Anon is a mutual support group of peers who share their experience in applying the Al-Anon principles to problems related to the effects of a problem drinker in their lives. It is not group therapy and is not led by a counselor or therapist. This support network complements and supports professional treatment. See https://al-anon.org/.
  • Smart Recovery—Smart Recovery is an abstinence-oriented, not-for-profit organization for individuals with addictive problems. Smart Recovery offers daily online meetings, a message board, and 24/7 live chat. See https://www.smartrecovery.org/smart-recovery-toolbox/smart-recovery-online/.
  • “The Addicted Lawyer,” a blog by author Brian Cuban, offers guidance and options for recovery meetings. See http://briancuban.com/blog/.
  • The Recovery Bag—The Recovery Minute is a series from Brian Cuban discussing important mental health and addiction recovery topics in short, concise videos. See http://happierlawyer.com/.
  • Fear Not: Speaking Out to End Stigma—a three-minute video on the importance of seeking help for mental health and substance use disorders. See https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/lawyer_assistance/colap-video-2-hardcoded-captions.mp4.

Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

Professional Responsibility

  • State Bar of Nevada Ethics Hotline—Nevada-licensed attorneys with questions regarding their professional responsibilities can contact the Office of Bar Counsel for informal guidance during any business day. The phone number for the State Bar’s ethics hotline is (702) 382-2200 or toll free (800) 254-2797.
  • Brief Moments is the official podcast from the State Bar of Nevada. Brief Moments’ series on lawyer ethics provides guidance to attorneys practicing in the state of Nevada regarding the Rules of Professional Conduct. Speakers are members of the State Bar of Nevada’s Office of Bar Counsel. See https://www.nvbar.org/brief-moments-the-state-bar-of-nevadas-podcast/.
  • The ABA’s Center for Professional Responsibility offers resources for lawyers to help understand and resolve ethics questions that come up in their law practice. See https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility.html.

Law Practice Management

Health Insurance

  • Nevada Health Link—The Nevada Health Link website was created by the state agency, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, to help Nevadans find an affordable health insurance plan. For more information, see https://www.nevadahealthlink.com/.

Special thanks to The Florida Bar for sharing content and resources published by Florida Lawyers Assistance program. See https://www.floridabar.org/member/healthandwellnesscenter/resources-for-coping-with-covid-19/.

Stephanie Abbott is the Communications Manager for the Clark County Bar Association.


Sizzling Summer Specials on Communiqué Ads

By Stephanie Abbott

Check out our special offers* for orders to advertise in the color print magazine, Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). The following special offers are available for new ad insertion orders completed from May 1 to September 22, 2020:

  • “4 for 3 Special” – Purchase 3 ads and get the 4th free!
  • “Complimentary Ad Design” – Available with purchase of an ad – for CCBA members only!

Additional discounts and added value opportunities are available for orders placed throughout the year:

  • CCBA Member Discount – 15% discount on the rate per ad for ad insertion orders made by CCBA members.
  • Ad Agency Discount – 15% discount on the rate per ad for ad insertion orders made by recognized advertising agencies.
  • Added value: Print Ad Index Listing – Advertiser’s name will be listed in the advertisers’ index in the print publication.
  • Added value: Online Ad Index Listing with Hyperlinks – Advertiser’s name (with a link to the advertiser’s website) will be listed in the advertisers’ index on the Communiqué issue page of the Clark County Bar website. For example, see https://www.clarkcountybar.org/communique/may-2020/.

Place display ads to showcase:

  • Awards & Achievements
  • Law Firm Announcement
  • Events
  • Office & Retail Space
  • Products for legal professionals, law firms
  • Professional services

Request a quote today!

Submit your request to StephanieAbbott@clarkcountybar.org and include the following information about the ad:

  • Size: (e.g., full page, 1/2 page, 1/3 page, ¼ page)
  • Format: (e.g., grayscale or 4-color)
  • Frequency: (e.g., number of placements)
  • Cover date(s): (e.g., June/July (combined issue), August, September…)

To place an ad in Communiqué:

Complete the Ad Insertion Order Form available in the Communique-Media-Kit-2020 (PDF file to download) and submit with the ad file, along with payment, to the Clark County Bar Association at least 30 days prior to the cover date of the issue of the publication (e.g. July 1 for the August issue). Payment is due upon placement of the order for the advertisement. For orders of ads to be inserted with frequency of more than two times (i.e., 3-5 times, 6-8 times, 9-12 times), payment for the first ad is due upon placement of the order with subsequent ads to be invoiced upon publication.
For more information and to confirm space availability, graphic design services, and discounts, contact the Clark County Bar Association, 717 S. 8th Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101. Email: StephanieAbbott@clarkcountybar.org. Phone: (702) 387-6011.

Stephanie Abbott is the Communications Manager for the Clark County Bar Association.


Communiqué Content Opportunities for CCBA Members

By Stephanie Abbott

Members of the CCBA are encouraged to write original content for publication. Articles must be on-topic and original, unpublished works written by the attorney(s) listed in the byline, and for publication in the Communiqué. Space is limited; content is subject to approval, editing. As space is limited, the editors review all proposals for articles several months in advance.

Editorial content proposals

Content proposals should include the following information:

  • Original submission of ideas for articles, or themes for future editions
  • Author(s) name(s) and Nevada bar #(s) and a short biographical statement
  • Summary paragraph providing the focus and scope for the article (include relevant rules/statues/procedures, etc.)
  • Proposed issue for placement/publication (see page 8 for editorial calendar).

Proposals should be submitted to the Editor-in-Chief c/o CCBA staffer Steph Abbott via StephanieAbbott@clarkcountybar.org. She will forward all items to the editorial board for consideration.

Editorial content

Each issue of Communiqué maintains an editorial focus with practical legal articles and features for Nevada attorneys, judges, and their staff. The content of each issue is planned several months in advance.

All articles submitted will be considered for publication in the Communiqué. However, Communiqué will not publish self-serving articles promoting a specific named product or services of an individual or firm.

The Editor-In-Chief, in conjunction with the CCBA Publications Committee and the editorial board, reserves the right to edit or to reject articles submitted, and to decide when or if they will publish the article.  The editorial board reserves the right to edit for style, content, continuity, and length. The CCBA Publications Committee and the editorial board will not consider for publication unsolicited articles from merchants who are not members or supporters of CCBA through sponsorship or advertising. If a specific need arises for a merchant-authored article or feature, the Publications Committee shall attempt to secure an author from the list of CCBA merchant members and/or those companies who currently support CCBA through sponsorship and/or advertising. The Publications Committee gives priority to articles and content submitted by active CCBA members.

All authors must follow the guidelines for the composition and submission of content listed in our editorial policy. See https://www.clarkcountybar.org/about-communique/editorial-calendar-policy/.

Stephanie Abbott is the Communications Manager for the Clark County Bar Association.


*About Communiqué

Communiqué is published eleven times per year with an issue published monthly except for July by the Clark County Bar Association, P.O. Box 657, Las Vegas, NV 89125-0657. Phone: (702) 387-6011.

© 2020 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.

Communiqué accepts advertisements from numerous sources and makes no independent investigation or verification of any claim or statement made in the advertisement. All articles, letters, and advertisements contained in this publication represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Clark County Bar Association.

Communiqué is mailed to all paid members of CCBA, with subscriptions available to non-members for $75.00 per year. For advertising information and editorial policy, please contact Steph Abbott at (702) 387-6011 or stephabbott@clarkcountybar.org.