Las Vegas Judge Sees Endorsements Slip, Criticism Rise After Controversial Mailer

Las Vegas Municipal Court judge Heidi Almase, left, and Las Vegas Municipal Court judge candidate Cara Campbell, right.
Municipal Court Judge Heidi Almase drew criticism from attorneys after sending out a mailer that suggested defense lawyers ‘keep criminals on the streets.’
This picture appeared on the Facebook page for Las Vegas Municipal Judge Heidi Almase’s re-election campaign. (Screenshot/Facebook)

Days before the Las Vegas city election, a municipal court judge has fired her re-election campaign manager, walked back a Facebook post, apologized for a highly criticized mailer and lost major political endorsements.

Municipal Court Judge Heidi Almase posted an apology on Facebook late Wednesday for a flier that attacked her re-election opponent.

The mailer, which contained an image of a man’s hand over the mouth of a young girl, questioned how Cara Campbell, a veteran Clark County prosecutor, could be an impartial judge, “when she is married to an attorney who keeps criminals on the streets?”

Campbell’s husband is Josh Tomsheck, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. Almase, who kept the name of her ex-husband and criminal defense attorney Cesar Almase, wrote that the mailer was sent “in the heat of a highly contested campaign, and after receiving multiple inflammatory mailers about my character.”

By Thursday afternoon, Almase had dropped her campaign manager, the second she’s had in this election season.

Two months after political consultant David Thomas dumped her, Almase said she fired Jennifer Barrier when she was unable to produce written proof that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had signed off on a doctored photo before it went up on social media.

Almase said she didn’t know the specific content before the photo was posted to Facebook on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the post was deleted.

“It just got more and more uncomfortable for me,” Almase said. “It’s just one of those things, that it didn’t seem like a good idea.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Almase said she had “legitimate concern about the validity of the social media graphic.”

Almase also self-reported the incident “as well as the steps I have taken to maintain the integrity of the campaign process to general counsel for the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline,” she said.

Campbell’s campaign manager, Tom Letizia, called Almase “an emotional mess.”

“You can’t have somebody with that instability on the bench,” he said. “It’s a well-known fact that Heidi Almase has not been a good judge in this community. The judgment she has used is a true reflection of who she is as a person.”

Almase took responsibility for the mailer, but said Thursday she wishes she had run the idea by some people “not associated with the campaign.”

After Almase’s Facebook posts and mailer drew the ire of many in the defense bar, the Nevada Veteran’s Association and Citizens for an Ethical Judiciary Nevada switched their endorsements to Campbell.

Assemblyman and public defender Steve Yeager joined the social media discussion about Almase’s mailer.

“I thought (hoped) judges were supposed to understand and respect the Constitution…hard to imagine she could be fair to any criminal defendant with these beliefs,” he wrote in a Facebook comment. “Time for a change in that department.”

First Amendment lawyer Maggie McLetchie, who represents the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other media entities, tweeted that Almase “should send corrective mailers and not just post something on FB saying ‘other side made me do it.’ McLetchie also wrote that “Heidi is apparently so sexist that she thinks a married woman can’t think for herself.”

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Almase versus Campbell

Several defense attorneys criticized Municipal Judge Heidi Almase, who is running for re-election against longtime prosecutor Cara Campbell, for campaign literature sent out this week.

Longtime criminal defense attorney JoNell Thomas also took to Facebook, saying she voted for Almase in the primary but would not vote for her in the general election.

“This goes way too far,” Thomas wrote. “Criminal defense attorneys do not ‘keep criminals on the street.’ We defend the constitution and we make sure the process is fair. For an experienced judge to make this kind of slanderous remark about an honorable profession is beyond shameful. Doubly shameful is the fact that you would judge a woman by her husband’s profession.”

Public defender John Piro asked others not to vote for Almase.

“Cara Campbell for Judge is truly the better choice in this race,” he wrote on Facebook. “The fact that Judge Almase would stoop to do such a mailer or would let anybody on her behalf put out a mailer like this shows she is unfit to be on the bench.”

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