April 2024 Millar’s JurisDiction - Hot Water

by Richard W. Millar, Jr.

The other day, when I was exchanging e-mails with a grandson, I had mentioned a phrase my father often used which was, “I would stand on my head, and spit wooden nickels before . . . .” My grandson had never heard that phrase and was intrigued by it. That inquiry, in turn, caused me to think of other phrases which, while colorful, are no longer in vogue.

Another of my father’s phrases dealt with the consequences of recession: “When the tide goes out, you can see the beer cans on the beach.” That also had a real, as opposed to metaphorical, meaning because there was a stretch of sand between Newport and Huntington Beach which for many years was called “Beer Can Beach” because of its non-policed accumulation of beer cans and other tourist detritus.

Then there is “hot water” and “cold water.” If someone was in trouble, we used to say that they were in “hot water.” If they had a bad idea, we would try to defuse it by “throwing cold water” on it.
I think it is appropriate to say, however, that one Erika Ballou is in hot water.
In fact, you could say that she is in hot water for being in hot water.
I will explain.

In 2022, on Facebook, Ms. Ballou posted a picture of herself and two others—a man and another woman—in a hot tub. Referring to the man in the photo, she captioned it: “[Mr.] Robson is surrounded by great tits.”

While not getting an award for the world’s most tasteful Facebook posting, it probably would not have received much attention but for a couple of additional facts. Ms. Ballou is a sitting judge in Clark County’s Las Vegas, and her two companions in the tub were both local deputy public defenders.

This was not the first time that Judge Ballou posted something of questionable propriety. She was sworn in as a judge on January 4, 2021, and about nine months later she attended a “music festival” which she described on Instagram: “Life is STILL beautiful, despite the fact that Billie Eilish doesn’t START for 30 minutes and I have an 8:30 calendar tomorrow” and included the hashtag “#VacateTheShitOuttaOutofCustodyCases," among others.

I confess that I do not fully understand the “art,” if that’s the right word, of hashtags or how they are supposed to be used, but even I can tell that is a predictor of a chaotic next-day calendar.

On January 24, 2024, about twenty days after her third anniversary of serving as a judge, a formal statement of charges was filed in the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, charging Judge Ballou with two counts of ethical violations.

The first count deals with the music festival posting, which it alleges did not promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. It also charges that the duties of a judge shall take precedence over a judge’s personal activities, and that a judge should not participate in activities that would cause a reasonable person to have doubts about the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.

The second count deals with the hot tub posting and adds an allegation that a judge should not give the impression that anyone, including a couple of public defenders, are in a position to influence her.

There is another old saying that “when you are deep in a hole, stop digging,” that the good judge seems unaware of. Instead, she has responded to this controversy by posting lyrics from Cardi B—a rapper I have never heard of: “Went from makin’ tuna sandwiches to makin’ the news. I started speakin’ my mind and tripled my views.”

I could be wrong, but I am guessing that increasing views or “clicks” is not a goal most judges aspire to and is not something that will positively sway the disciplinary folks. Even in Las Vegas.

If she had only saved room in the hot tub for a deputy district attorney.

Richard W. Millar, Jr. is tired and retired. He can be reached at dickmillar9@gmail.com.