Have You Heard of Former Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen?

Conrad Hafen

Conrad Hafen was raised in Roy, Utah.  He served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, then attended Weber State University where he graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science.  He was accepted into Brigham Young University’s Public Administration Masters Program.  In 1985, he enrolled in the University of Idaho School of Law, graduating in 1988.

After law clerking and working as an associate attorney with a private law firm concentrating in insurance defense and products liability, Conrad Hafen accepted a position with the Humboldt County Nevada District Attorney’s Office.  Within several months, he was promoted to Chief Deputy District Attorney and served in that capacity for 10 years.

Hafen lost a race for district judge in 2006, and when the Las Vegas Justice Court Department was looking for a judge for one of its specialty courts, Hafen threw his hat in the ring.  During his campaign, Hafen said, “When people come before me … they’ll know my decision is based on the law and is a fair and just resolution.”

Saying what citizens want to hear, in 2010, Hafen was elected as a Justice of the peace in Nevada.  Those judges hear misdemeanor cases and hold preliminary hearings to determine if there is enough evidence to move felony cases to state courts for trial.

Hafen’s career in the Nevada judicial system has now involuntarily ended and he is back in Utah.  This is how it happened …

Deputy Public Defender Zohra Bakhtary

Zohra Bakhtary is a deputy public defender, and while advocating for one of her clients, Judge Hafen did not want her to speak.  He had Bakhtary handcuffed and seated with inmates who were awaiting their hearings.  After Hafen sentenced Bakhtary’s client, Daniel Fernandez, to six months in jail, he had court security remove her handcuffs and said, “I think she’s learned a lesson.”

District Judge Rob Bare released Fernandez and the petty theft conviction was later thrown out after a ruling that Fernandez was deprived of assistance of a lawyer when he was sentenced.

After reviewing Hafen’s handling of the case, Judge Bare noted that Hafen directly addressed the defendant while Deputy Public Defender Zohra Bakhtary was handcuffed and silenced.  The Review Journal reports:

“A lot of meaningful things were covered that, respectfully, a lawyer could potentially weigh in on,” Bare said. “But even if the lawyer chose not to weigh in, it troubles me that a judge would speak directly to a now-unrepresented client in this regard.” 

Hafen did not discriminate when he wielded findings of contempt.  Montreal Carter arrived to Hafen’s court on trespassing charges and was told he didn’t qualify for a public defender.  When Carter asked for additional time to hire an attorney, Hafen denied his request.  That forced Carter to act in his own defense.  When he referenced the 14th amendment, Hafen cut him off saying the argument was “irrelevant”.  Hafen sentenced Carter to 10 days in jail for contempt, but later revised that excessive sentence.

The Guardian reports that 150 defense attorneys filed ethics complaint against Hafen, alleging he has “complete disregard for law” when putting lawyers and defendants in custody for contempt without due process.

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline filed a complaint of four incidents involving Hafen that took place between December 2014 and May 2016.

On March 1, 2017, The Seattle Times reported that the Nevada Supreme Court ordered the banning of Hafen from serving as a judge in Nevada – for life.

Hafen was following suit of other judges in silencing women lawyers, and particularly women of color, with demeaning court actions.  In Washington, D.C., Liyah Brown, a black defense attorney was searched and detained in 2007 for vociferously defending her client, a homeless man.

In Ohio, defense lawyer Andrea Burton was handcuffed, removed from the courtroom, and sentenced to 5 days in jail for refusing Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich’s order that she remove a Black Lives Matter pin she wore to court.  After 5 hours with the NAACP intervening, Burton was released pending appeal.

In September 2016, Clark County Nevada District Court Judge Douglas Herndon ordered criminal defense attorney Erika Ballou to remove her “Black Lives Matter” button while in his courtroom.


Posted on 03/14/2017, in Cases, civil rights and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Dear Xena,

    Unbelievable! Even with all the complaints filed, it took how long to kick Judge Hafen out of the courtroom?.

    It is a shame that women still have to put up with men that are misogynists. Will it ever end? This is another obstacle for us to overcome.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good morning Gronda! For years, I’ve often thought that judges that were once prosecutors do not appreciate the work of public defenders. While in position of a prosecutor, they could talk public defenders into leading their clients to plea bargain or defend against maximum penalties. In other words, they exercised influence over the decisions of public defenders. With more women entering that career, those judges who are in conflict with public defenders and who are misogynists have been wielding their contempt powers.

      Without working in the capacity of public defenders, women lawyers still struggle for equal respect that judges give to men lawyers. I know of women lawyers who concentrate in areas other than criminal law who cringe when having to appear before certain male judges. Because judges are using contempt to jail woman lawyers, and because of open courts with the media and videos, it is now becoming known, but women lawyers have struggled against unfairness for decades.

      Liked by 3 people

      • crustyolemothman

        At the risk of having large rocks cast upon me, I will ask a question! Can you see any link to the belief that this nation is founded on Christian principals and the thought by far too many men in our society that woman place is in the home? Could the constant preaching from the pulpit of women’s place in the home and community, have had any effect upon the business community? I have noticed that as our society has drifted away from church being the center of the community that the younger members of our society are more accepting of gender equality.


        • Mothman,
          There are some records that the first Christians to settle in America were Quakers, and Quakers do not believe that women are intellectually or spiritually less than men. In fact, there were women Quaker ministers.

          Many decades ago I had a conversation with a Southern Baptist minister who preached from the pulpit that women were intellectual and spiritual unequal to men. I called his attention to Galatians 3:38. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And I told him, show me a congregation or Christian denomination that believes that men and women are unequal, and I’ll show you a congregation or denomination that is not “in Christ.”

          The American Dream was fulfilled mainly by White men. During the Viet Nam war, the roles of women and men changed. Men returned from war disabled, addicted, and their only skill was shooting a rifle. The dream of the house in the suburb with the white picket fence and station wagon died. Women had to pick up financially where the men could not, and they found that wages were not sufficient for them to obtain the American Dream. Keep in mind too that at that time, companies had their own policies about how long a pregnant employee could work.

          There’s a movie, “Dead Presidents” that brings out the challenges of men returning from the Viet Nam war and the challenges of their families. The courtroom scene leaves an important question open.

          Regardless of what churches might teach and believe, this nation has a constitution and women are free to pursue lawful careers, even careers that were thought to be exclusively for men. As it concerns becoming an attorney, men and women take the same Bar test.

          Liked by 1 person

          • crustyolemothman

            I have made mention several times in the past that there is little factual evidence to prove that this nation was established based on any particular religion. I have however sat in many churches down thru the years that hammered on the premise that woman’s place was in the house and she was to submit to her husband. This is the point that I was asking about, could this have an impact upon the basic attitude of many male members of our society. You might note that in the middle east that women have similar problem with attaining their well earned position in society. To downplay the effect that the words from the pulpit is to ignore the need of many people to have hope for a better place.. I know this is not a place that talking about religion is encouraged and I must respect that and will say no more about this. Hopefully, I have not offended anyone.


          • Mothman,
            I don’t consider this a discussion about religion. Rather, it’s looking for reasons as to why women are challenged in being treated equally in today’s society. In my opinion, mankind has always look for reasons for wanting to be better than others. They will use weapons, scientific theories, geographical locations, and even religion to justify their prejudices.

            I never understood how a man fathering a daughter would think that she would be less intelligent than himself. In the same way, I never understood how a man would think that his mother would be less intelligent that the son she birthed into the world.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow he looks like something from the Goonies. Lol… He does not look real.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Supabutterfly,
      We don’t get to pick and choose how we want to physically look. We inherit our features from our parents and all combinations thereto. However, if I was to see Hafen person to person, I don’t think I would be able to keep from staring.


  3. What a swine! Banning almost isn’t enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hafen is a person I would like to follow-up on in a year or so to see what he’s doing. Nevada banned him from the bench, but he still has his license to practice law.

      Liked by 1 person

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