I-Team: Do police seek search warrant friendly judges?

LAS VEGAS -- Could police be playing favorites when it comes to getting search warrants signed by local magistrates? An I-Team investigation shows one judge has signed nearly twice as many warrants this year, as any other judge.

The Fourth Amendment prevents police from entering your home or seizing your property without obtaining a warrant signed by an impartial magistrate.

But one expert the I-Team spoke with questions whether judges with strong ties to law enforcement can truly be impartial. Why do certain judges sign lots of warrants for police, while other sign hardly any.

Law enforcement officers went to Las Vegas Justice Court for search warrants more than 2,000 times last year. Each warrant has to be signed by a judge whose job it is to impartially review the facts before approving it. But can a judge who's married to a police officer be impartial when signing warrants for that officer's department?

A judge has to be neutral and detached and somebody who is married to a police office is not neutral and detached. Period, said John Wesley Hall, a Fourth Amendment expert.

Hall is a lawyer who runs a Fourth Amendment blog and wrote reference books on search and seizure law. He is referring to Judge Melanie Andress-Tobiasson who is married to a career Metro officer who retired last summer. When the I-Team asked Las Vegas Justice Court for numbers on how many warrants were signed by each magistrate Andress-Tobiassons name was at the top of the list.

She signed the greatest number of warrants by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 over the judge with the next highest figure.

I-Team reporter Glen Meek: Do you think the fact that your husband was a career Metro officer tends to prompt police to call you more often for a search warrant?

Tobiasson: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And I can tell you, though he's retired now probably most of the officers on the department don't even know my husband.

If police seek certain judges for warrants and not others it can create the appearance of judge shopping. It's not illegal, but it can make the process seem unfair and begs the question of why police should favor some judges over others.

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I-Team: Do police seek search warrant friendly judges?

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