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Kent Dawson

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Kent Dawson
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the District of Nevada
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #6
Appointed by:   Bill Clinton
Active:   5/31/2000 - 7/9/2012
Senior:   7/9/2012 - Present
Preceded by:   113 Stat. 1501
Succeeded by:   Andrew Gordon
Personal History
Born:   1944
Hometown:   Ogden, UT
Undergraduate:   Weber State College, B.S., 1969
Law School:   University of Utah School of Law, J.D., 1971

Kent Dawson is an Article III federal judge serving on senior status for the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. He joined the court in 2000 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. He assumed senior status on July 9, 2012.

Early life and education

A native of Utah, Dawson graduated from Weber State College with his bachelor's degree in 1969 and later graduated from the University of Utah School of Law with his J.D. in 1971.[1]

Professional career

Dawson began his legal career as a Law clerk for District Judge James Guinan in the Washoe District Court based in Reno, Nevada from 1971 to 1972. He served as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Henderson from 1972 to 1973. Later in '73, he became the lead City Attorney and served in that role until 1979. Dawson also served as General counsel to the city's Public Improvement Trust from 1973 to 1995, and as the City Manager for in 1977. He spent the rest of his legal career before his judgeship in private practice in the State of Nevada, from 1979 to 1995, then as Judge Pro Tempore for the Henderson Municipal Court from 1993 to 1995, and finally worked as a Justice of the peace for the Henderson Justice Court from 1995 to 2000. He was then nominated to the Federal bench on April 6, 2000.[1]

Judicial career

District of Nevada

On the recommendation of Nevada U.S. Senators Harry Reid and Richard Bryan Dawson was nominated by President Bill Clinton on April 6, 2000 to a new seat created by 113 Stat. 1501, a bill approved by Congress.[1] Judge Dawson was confirmed by the Senate on May 24, 2000 on a majority voice vote and received commission on May 31, 2000. He assumed senior status on July 9, 2012.[1]

Notable cases

Aryan Warriors RICO case; denial of liver transplant for inmate (2009-2011)

     United States District Court for the District of Nevada (United States, v. Ronald "Joey" Sellers, et al.)

Judge Dawson presided over cases against Ronald "Joey" Sellers, the leader of the Aryan Warriors prison and street gang in Nevada. Sellers was previously convicted and sentenced to life without parole in the early 1990's for the murder of a 7-11 store clerk in Reno, Nevada.[2]

In January of 2012, Judge Dawson ordered the sentence in the government's case charging Sellers with committing a violent crime in aid of a racketeering offense. The charge was based on his role in attacking and stabbing a prisoner who was his co-defendant in the racketeering and drug conspiracy case arising out of their membership in the race-based gang. Judge Dawson sentenced him to another 20 years in prison, to be served consecutively with his current life sentence.[2]

Previous to the sentencing in the long-running racketeering case, in which Sellers and the white supremacist group were charged with murder, prison guard corruption, inmate extortion and illegal drug and gambling operations, Judge Dawson denied a request by Sellers to order the government to provide a liver transplant procedure for him. The inmate's lawyers argued that the transplant was necessary to save his life and treat his 'end stage' liver failure due to contracting hepatitis C in a Nevada State Prison. The judge ruled that although it was permissible for the government to fund the operation, there was no hospital willing to perform the procedure, and thus no order would be given.[3][4]

Subsequently, the federal case against Sellers was put on hold for two years while prosecutors considered whether they would seek the death penalty; they abandoned the effort in August 2010 under a directive from Attorney General Eric Holder, as Sellers' lawyers continued to press the fact that he was dealing with a near-terminal liver condition.[3]

Sellers and each of the thirteen gang members originally charged in 2007 eventually pleaded guilty, or were convicted. All defendants received lengthy sentences for racketeering, drug or assault charges.[5]

Refusal of ACLU recusal request (2009)

     United States District Court for the District of Nevada (Does 1-4, v. United States Attorneys, District of Nevada, 2:09-cv-01083-KJD-PAL)

Judge Dawson on August 13, 2009, denied a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to recuse himself in a tax evasion trial. The request came after a subpoena was issued to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.[6]

Judge Dawson requested the Las Vegas newspaper release the names of people who posted possibly threatening comments towards prosecutors and federal officials on the newspaper's website. These were generally anti-tax advocates, and they objected to the prosecution of Robert Kahre and Irwin Schiff for tax-related crimes. Judge Dawson had been previously involved in a similar case, in which comments made by tax protesters led to him needing bodyguards and protection from U.S. Marshals. Because of this, the ACLU intervened and asserted that he should recuse himself not for actual bias, but because the public might infer his bias.[6]

The judge remained on the case despite the ACLU's request.[6]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
NA-New Seat
District of Nevada
Seat #6
Succeeded by:
Andrew Gordon

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