03 Oct Stephanie Charter
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CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES
Please share briefly what inspired you to run for this office and why you feel you’re qualified for the position.
We have six new judicial seats in Family Court, Department Y is one of them. With the addition of these six new seats, 3 additional judges will be hearing child abuse and neglect cases in Family Court. This is where my heart and a great deal of my experience lies. I was one of the first dedicated children's attorneys for legal aid in Clark County 20 years ago. During my years with legal aid, I represented dozens of children who are victims of abuse and neglect. I am the only attorney running with this unique background, and it is critical that the judges who hear child abuse and neglect cases understand the cases from the perspective of the child. I also gained additional child welfare experience as a deputy district attorney in the dependency units in Clark and also Washoe Counties. In addition, I have been a long-term volunteer judge with the Truancy Diversion Program in Clark County, and I helped start that program in Washoe County. Overall, I have 29 years of experience as an attorney, and I am admitted to 4 bars. My experience brings with it knowledge of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, substantive knowledge of the law and most importantly knowledge of that all who appear in the courtroom deserve to be treated with compassion and respect.
What are your views on the courts’ responsibility to uphold precedent on reproductive health care, particularly as it relates to Roe v. Wade and access to abortion as a constitutional right?
The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade ruled that a Texas statute that banned abortions, except to save the mother's life, was unconstitutional under the 14th amendment to the Constitution. Roe v. Wade stands as legal precedent. Judges must comply with and follow valid legal precedent in all areas of the law, including the protection of women's rights in cases involving reproductive healthcare.
What are your views on “human dignity,” as applied by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor (133 S. Ct. 2675), shares the same constitutional protection provided to liberty and equality rights?
In U.S. v. Windsor, decided in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and its limited definition of marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. The majority found that the federal statute was in violation of the 5th amendment for disregarding State's protection of couples' rights in same sex marriages and threating same-sex marriage couples with less respect than those in heterosexual marriages and thereby disregarding the values of personhood and human dignity. The decision had the practical implication of allowing same-sex married couples to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples. "Human dignity" does not have one clear, legal definition. As applied by the Court in U.S. v. Windsor, the court viewed the right of persons in same-sex marriages to be treated equally and to enjoy the same liberties as those in hetero-sexual marriages as part of basic human dignity. In my view, the Court's recognition of human dignity is critically important to ensuring equality for all litigants.
Do you believe that Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483) was correctly decided?
In this 1954 case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that state laws permitting racial segregation in public schools under the guise of "separate but equal" were unconstitutional. The "separate but equal" doctrine adopted in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson was therefore finally struck down. The Court's holding in Brown v. Board of Education was a long time coming. The Court made the correct decision in this well-written, on point decision that led to the extremely overdue desegregation of public schools. This decision is also viewed as a seminal moment in the civil rights movement.
Would you honor the request of a plaintiff, defendant, or witness in a case before you who is transgender to be referred to in accordance with that person’s gender identity?
Describe your understanding of Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises (390 U.S. 400) and application of this precedent to nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in places of public accommodation.
Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises was decided 50 years ago. In this case, the owner of a BBQ restaurant refused to serve Black patrons. The owner argued that the restaurant was not covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as it was not a place of public accommodation. The owner also claimed his religious beliefs made him oppose integration and therefore the Civil Rights Acts' prohibition against discrimination infringed on his religious freedoms. The U.S. Supreme Court soundly rejected this argument. Its finding was viewed as affirming the concept that religious freedoms do not trump civil rights. The topic was addressed recently in the 2018 case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Like the BBQ owner in Newman, the owner of a bakery in this case claimed that his religious beliefs as well as his constitutional right to free speech supported his refusal to provide service to same-sex couples. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission disagreed and found the bakery owner did not have a basis to refuse service to the same-sex couple. In its decision, the Supreme Court skirted the key question of whether the bakery owner's rights to freedom of religion or speech under the 1st amendment would be violated if the bakery owner were forced to design and bake a cake for the same-sex couple. Instead, the majority found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's treatment of the case had some elements of "impermissible hostility" as applied to the bakery owner's expressed religious beliefs. This decision therefore left the door open for other courts to address this question and define their answers. Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises remains a critical part of the equation as it set legal precedent decades ago.
Have you been involved in a significant case where a primary issue was sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV/AIDs discrimination? If so, can you provide the case, venue, case number and case citation (if published decision) and your involvement?
No, I have not been involved in this type of case.
With more and more Nevadans only one family emergency away from being unable to pay rent and maintain shelter for their loved ones, what steps would you take towards having a more equitable eviction process for Nevadans?
I am running for Family Court judge rather than a District Court civil seat and therefore would not handle eviction matters.
How would you ensure that criminal defendants with adverse immigration consequences attached to their cases are protected in the event the case is dismissed or otherwise resolved, so that the criminal justice system does not become a trap for the undocumented?
I am running for Family Court judge rather than a District Court criminal seat and therefore would not handle criminal matters.
In recent years, we have seen Immigration and Customs Enforcement detain individuals as they are leaving criminal court hearings. Please describe your views on this practice.
I am running for Family Court judge rather than a District Court criminal seat. However, in general, absent knowledge of specific facts that could dictate otherwise, a person dutifully appearing for a criminal court proceeding should not have to fear being detained by ICE upon leaving the hearing. Such a practice serves only to deter cooperation in the criminal justice process which is detrimental to every person involved and to the Court.
What actions will you take to dismantle the school to prison and deportation pipeline? What do you see as the judiciary’s role in advancing restorative discipline practices for Nevada’s students?
Education is a critical component in the youths' lives who are involved with Family Court either in delinquency or child welfare matters. Restorative school discipline stems from the premise that schools are educational institutions so the goal should be to educate the child rather than punish or exclude the child. The school is seen as the child's community with behavioral challenges addressed through positive, educational-based interventions. While the daily work needed for true restorative school discipline starts and ends with the school, the Judge on the bench hearing these youths' cases can and should serve as a positive support encouraging the youth and congratulating the youth in large and small academic and extracurricular victories. As a long term Truancy Diversion Program volunteer Judge in Clark County and co-founder of the TPD program in Washoe County, I understand what a difference one person with a positive, supportive, and purposeful message can make. The Judge is in a unique position to be that person.
What do you think is the most important issue or problem in the state’s justice system today, and how would you work to address it?
In Family Court, we have one judge assigned to juvenile delinquency matters. We will have 6 judges assigned to child welfare matters starting in January 2021. The delinquency matters and child welfare have some overlap as the youth may be involved both as foster children and as youth charged in the delinquency system. For this population, the issue of an unstable "home" (foster home, biological parent home, relative home, group home, or fictive kin placement, etc.) is one of the most frequent contributing factors. The issues include changing schools during the school year, substance abuse issues, lack of resources due to poverty, domestic violence, and mental health issues. Addressing the underlying issues that brought the child into the child welfare or delinquency system, providing the proper resources to assist the family with correcting these issues, and maintaining supports once the family starts to improve is the biggest challenge facing youth in the dependency and/or delinquency system. To address this, courts, attorneys, social workers, therapists, and law enforcement must work together to identify the child's and his or her placement's strengths and weaknesses and work diligently toward a common goal of a safe, stable, and healthy home for the youth. Only with this underlying support of a stable, safe home in place can the issue of repeat juvenile offenders and repeat removals from the home be rectified.
Do you feel that existing diversion initiatives and specialty courts are effective in meeting the needs of the community? What changes would you make to improve their effectiveness?
I am a firm believer in the power of diversionary programs and specialty Courts. In Family Court, there are several different options including Family Treatment Court which is geared toward parents involved in the child welfare system who have substance abuse issues. With substance abuse a factor in so many removals from the home, this treatment-based model can be a successful alternative to help put these parents and families back together. Detention Alternatives for Autistic Youth (DAAY) is designed for youth who are on the autism spectrum and are involved in the delinquency system. This treatment-based model brings valuable resources for the youth and their families with the goal of bringing about lasting positive results. To succeed, these programs need dedicated Judges to champion and tweak them as needed to ensure they are as helpful as they can be. Partnering with local colleges to obtain data to determine what is and is not working may be one way to assess and improve these programs' effectiveness and open the door for ideas for other innovative diversionary, positive alternatives to traditional court.
What value does cash bail bring to Nevada’s judicial system?
I am running for a Family Court judicial seat, and we do not address bail. However, I am aware of the recent April, 2020, decision by the Nevada Supreme Court in which the Court found that cash bail should only be set if it is reasonably necessary to ensure the defendant appears at court proceedings or to protect the community including the victim and his/her family. The Court also held that a three step procedural system must be followed by prosecutors to assign a cash bail amount. This new case law serves to set much needed guidelines for the cash bail system.
In light of Nevada’s move to legalize recreational marijuana, what is your position on vacating convictions of individuals for marijuana possession?
I am running for a Family Court judicial seat, and we do not address criminal convictions.