November 28, 2021 - 9:00 pm
Even for the rough and tumble world of politics, lawyer Ozzie Fumo’s casual smearing of a former political foe and sitting judge is beyond the pale.
Last year, Mr. Fumo, who previously served in the Assembly, ran for the Nevada Supreme Court. Voters wisely selected Douglas Herndon instead. Mr. Fumo is now running to be Clark County district attorney.
The Review-Journal obtained video last month of Mr. Fumo speaking on a panel put on by UNLV’s Black Law Students Association. During the discussion, he referenced an incident in 2016 when Mr. Herndon was a District Court judge. Mr. Herndon told Erika Ballou, who was then a public defender, to remove a Black Lives Matter pin when she was in his courtroom.
She walked “into a courtroom of someone who I considered a white supremacist,” Mr. Fumo said.
Mr. Fumo doubled down on the comment when asked about it. “Kind of like if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck,” he said.
That toxic charge is no less than an attempt to ruin someone’s professional career and personal reputation. If a Supreme Court justice actually exhibited a clear pattern of racist behavior, one would expect a quick impeachment.
Justice Herndon vigorously defended himself. He pointed out that U.S. Supreme Court precedent gives judges the authority to remove political symbols from their courtrooms. “As a judge, it’s not your job to be the activist,” he said. “It’s your job to just follow the law in the courtroom.”
Justice Herndon said the charge is “arguably defamatory.” That can be a tough case to make in a courtroom, but it’s true in the colloquial sense. A baseless claim of white supremacy should generate a similar level of outrage as finding out someone holds such beliefs.
Phantom charges of racism appear to be part of Mr. Fumo’s campaign strategy. Clark County DA Steve Wolfson also condemned Mr. Fumo’s remarks. Mr. Fumo attacked Mr. Wolfson for not acknowledging “institutional racism” in the judicial system. He implied Mr. Wolfson is comparable to the “district attorney in Selma, Alabama, in 1963.”
Applying a neutral standard isn’t institutional racism. It’s a foundational principle of our justice system.
Mr. Fumo appears to be trying to gin up support with local progressives by casually throwing around allegations of racism to prove he’ll walk the woke walk. The last DA race was decided in the Democratic primary, with Mr. Wolfson facing a challenge from his left.
In this case, however, Mr. Fumo has revealed exceedingly poor judgment. His reckless and scattershot attacks send a clear message to voters that he’s unfit for the DA job.