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Judging the Judges Part Two: Michael P. Villani

by William Bessette
Saturday Aug 9, 2008

Judge Michael Villani presides over District Court 17 here in Clark County. This bench is a split counter, meaning that it sees an even mix of both civil and criminal cases. Judge Villani was appointed to the bench by Governor Gibbons after a vacancy was left when Judge Mike Cherry went to the Nevada Supreme Court. Judge Villani now is running to retain that seat.

You were appointed by Governor Gibbons, what are your thoughts on appointing or electing judges in this state?
That's a hot topic right now. I think the majority of people don't want to give up their right to vote and I understand that. There are pros and cons to each method of having to select our judges, but for me I think the key is that. . . you have to make an informed decision of the candidate.

How do you feel about activist judges and legislating from the bench?
Well I am absolutely against that. As a judge, my job is to interpret and enforce the law. The legislators are to make the laws. I do not believe in Judges being activists because their job, under their sworn oath, is to enforce the laws that are on the books.

How do you overcome the desire to let how you feel personally about something affect the decision that you are making?
Of course in human nature we have our personal opinions; they are always there, but when we make judicial decisions we have to work to put those aside. Whether we agree or disagree with the law, we have to enforce the law. I think any good judge must always struggle with that, to make sure that their personal opinions don'tcome into play. The only thing that really counts is that interpreting the law is done properly and that it is properly enforced.

Have you ever handled, in your private practice or as a Judge, cases relating to the LGBT community?
Yes, I represented a very nice lady; she had a relationship with someone and they were no longer together. I represented her in her custody battle in family court, and she was awarded primary custody of her son...I presented and argued her case that she would be the better parent than her ex-boyfriend, and I truly believe that she was the better parent. Now, as a Judge, I wouldn't know anyone's sexual orientation because its irrelevant; I only deal with the legal issue.

My job is to interpret and enforce the

This person you represented, she was admittedly a lesbian?

Right now its not legal for gays or lesbians to adopt in this state. How do you feel about that law?
I personally think that any qualified individual who wants to be a good parent to a child should have the right to bring up a child of their own.

How do you feel about the decision of the California Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage? Do you feel that was legislating from the bench?
I am not aware of the specific California law that was interpreted when the case came before the California Supreme Court and so I really don't know if they were legislating from the bench or not. I would hope that they were interpreting the California law and constitution and made the determination that same-sex marriages are protected under the law. I just don't know what the California law was that they interpreted to either agree or disagree with it.

We have a ban on gay marriage here in this state, but I know that the Nevada Supreme Court can overturn that ban. Do you agree with that ban?
Someone initially challenged that law before a District Court judge such as myself. Under the cannons of ethics I am precluded from discussing legal issues that could come before me. If our Supreme Court determines that the law is unconstitutional, then that is the law that would be enforced in my courtroom.

Although voting for a judge "should" be a non-partisan thing, you are a registered Republican. What are some good reasons for our readers to vote for you over your opponent?
First off, all judicial races are non-partisan. The reason they are non-partisan is because as a judge, we do not have a political agenda. Our agenda is to interpret and enforce the law. And so I hope that everyone in the community would vote for the person based on their qualifications and their experience, as opposed to any other reason.

People may say they don't take their personal feelings into account when they come to a decision, but it's tough because there are judges that do let their personal feelings about how they feel about people affect a decision that they make.
If you check my Web site,, you'll see on there that I've been endorsed by the Culinary Union, AFL-CIO, carpenters, the laborers, and the SEIU. I've been endorsed by every single law enforcement organization in the county, prosecutors and firefighters. I have a very diverse group of endorsements, and I think they looked at the person and not the party.


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