Judge’s hot tub social media post makes waves with judicial conduct commission; she quotes Cardi B in response
While attending a music festival in September 2021, Clark County, Nevada, Judge Erika Ballou posted on Instagram: “Life is STILL beautiful, despite the fact that Billie Eilish doesn’t START for 30 minutes and I have a 8:30 calendar tomorrow.” The hot tub photo of Ballou and the two public defenders can be viewed in the complaint. (Image from the Jan. 24 misconduct complaint)
A Las Vegas judge is facing ethics charges partly for a social media photo of herself sporting a bikini while in a hot tub with public defenders.
Clark County, Nevada, Judge Erika Ballou is facing a Jan. 24 misconduct complaint filed by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline. The document cites the hot tub post as well as a second post complaining about an early court calendar.
The hot tub post used a slang word for breasts, while the second post used an expletive in a hashtag.
The New York Post, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, KLAS and Law & Crime have coverage.
The misconduct complaint has specifics on the social media posts:
• In April 2022, Ballou posted on Facebook a photo of herself in a hot tub with two public defenders—one man and one woman. Referring to the male public defender, Ballou said he was “surrounded by great tits.”
• While attending the Life is Beautiful music festival in September 2021, Ballou posted on Instagram: “Life is STILL beautiful, despite the fact that Billie Eilish doesn’t START for 30 minutes and I have a 8:30 calendar tomorrow.” The Instagram post carried the hashtag #VacateTheShitOuttaOutofCustodyCases.
Ballou apparently responded to the controversy last weekend in a Facebook post that quoted lyrics from rapper Cardi B, according to KLAS.
“Went from makin’ tuna sandwiches to makin’ the news,” Ballou posted. “I started speakin’ my mind and tripled my views.”
The misconduct complaint alleges that both posts violate ethics rules requiring judges to act in a way that promotes public confidence in the judiciary; requiring them to comply with the law, including the judicial ethics code; and providing that judges participating in extracurricular activities should not act in a way that appears to undermine their independence and integrity.
The hot tub post also violates ethics rules banning judges from conveying the impression that others are in a position to influence them, the ethics complaint alleges. And the Billie Eilish post also violates ethics rules requiring judicial duties to take precedence over personal activities, according to the complaint.
Ballou became a district judge in January 2021. She was previously criticized for telling a Black defendant accused of battery against a police officer that he should stay away from officers.
“You know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are ’cause I know I don’t, and I’m a middle-aged, middle-class Black woman,” she said. “I don’t want to be around where the cops are because I don’t know if I’m going to walk away alive or not.”
Ballou had explained that she supports law enforcement, but she tries to communicate with defendants “in a manner that is straightforward and understandable.”
Ballou did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal voicemail and email seeking comment. She also did not reply to requests for comment from publications covering the ethics charges.