For more than twenty-five years, Bita Yeager has worked in the legal community in Las Vegas. Immediately after graduating from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark law school, Bita moved to Las Vegas to serve as a law clerk for District Court Judge Lee Gates. She then clerked for Judge Addeliar D. Guy and Judge Stephen Huffaker before starting as a trial attorney at the Clark County Public Defender’s Office. As a Public Defender for nearly 19 years, Bita represented thousands of clients, tried hundreds of bench trials and over 50 jury trials. She was ultimately promoted to Team Chief, where she oversaw a team of 7 litigation attorneys. In 2015, Bita was appointed to the Las Vegas Justice Court Bench, as the first Asian-American to serve in that capacity. During her time as a Justice Court Judge, Bita presided over a high-volume civil docket with over 30,000 cases filed each year. In 2017, Bita was selected by the Eighth Judicial District Court as their first Specialty Court Hearing Master, where she currently presides over Mental Health Court and Co-Occurring Disorders Court on the criminal side, and Civil Commitment Court and Assisted Outpatient Treatment on the civil side. She serves on numerous state-wide committees, including the Statewide Mental Health Legal Hold workgroup, and the Nevada Supreme Court’s Evidence-Based Pretrial Release Committee.
Community minded and justice driven is how Bita describes her approach to the law. For almost two decades, Bita fought to protect constitutional rights of individuals, and she continues to be passionate about fair treatment under the law. Bita won awards for creating community programs to reduce recidivism and advance access to justice. “Studies show that when we address and treat the underlying drivers of crime, whether it is homelessness, untreated mental illness, substance use disorder, or unemployment, it reduces the risk of that individual committing more crimes, which makes for safer communities,” she notes. Bita founded both North Las Vegas and Las Vegas Community Courts, so that defendants charged with lower-level crimes are held accountable for remaining crime-free while connecting them to services to address their underlying issues. “Smart sentencing leads to safer communities” she states. Bita continues to work in the community, teaching police officers, hospital professionals, and attorneys about mental health and the court system. She also works with state-wide stakeholders to ensure that Nevada’s law on mental health crisis holds are updated and relevant. Through her work, Bita has earned a reputation in the legal community for being prepared on the facts and the law, being courteous and fair, and working hard – not only in her day-to-day job, but also in her many contributions to our community.
Access to justice continues to be a challenge in our court system. Although judges work to ensure fair and just outcomes, many litigants face barriers to understanding the legal process, what their rights are, and how to exercise those rights. Legal Aid of Southern Nevada and Nevada Legal Services do an excellent job in providing legal services to those who cannot afford it, but there are still many more in need than there are lawyers available to represent them. We can make great strides in increasing access to justice by using technology that is effective, user-friendly, and accessible to non-lawyers, increasing our support for legal service organizations, and incentivizing attorneys to take more pro bono cases.
As a judicial officer, I take my duty to follow the statutes, rules, and caselaw very seriously. I will often do my own legal research to ensure that I am knowledgeable about the law and any distinguishing factors that I should take into consideration when making a ruling. I believe it is also part of my duty to be out in the community to educate others about the courts and different court programs that are available to them, and also be actively involved in committees with state and community stakeholders to ensure that we are making improvements to our justice system.
I regularly volunteer for activities that promote educational opportunities. I enjoy serving as a judge in the “We the People” high school competition as well as various law school competitions that are hosted at Boyd Law School. I also serve as an adjunct professor at Boyd Law School and enjoy mentoring young law students as they prepare for their careers.