Mom Loses Legal Custody and Primary Physical Custody of Daughter — Over a Bad Attitude!

Just the latest of Judge Rena Hughes’ “Courtroom Greatest Hits.”



Clark County Nevada

August 29, 2017


Sarah Gazala, a Special Education Life Functional Skills teacher for the Clark County School District, who teaches mentally and physically challenged students, recently lost legal custody of her six year old daughter, and was basically relegated to visitations every other weekend.


Why?  Family Court Judge Rena Hughes found that Sarah had a bad attitude — towards her ex-husband!  No wonder newly divorced moms seem to be losing their kids in droves in Judge Hughes’ courtroom!  There was no finding of substance abuse, domestic violence, neglect, parental alienation, or any inability to parent whatsoever.


The parties were divorced in 2013 and per their divorce decree, each had joint physical and legal custody of their young daughter.  Dad recently went back to court to get full legal custody and primary physical custody complaining that Mom didn’t apprise him fast enough of certain doctor’s visits, her parents’ address, and the fact that she got remarried.  The Parent-Coordinator that Hughes appointed wrote a report to the Judge in September 2016 seeking to withdraw from the case because Mom, who earns about half of what Dad earns, could no longer afford to pay her retainer.  In the report, she gave her opinion that mom was “arrogant,” “overbearing,” “difficult,” “oppositional” and made a host of other similar subjective derogatory comments about Mom.  Ironically, the report indicated that both Mom and Dad have strong personalities, and that “Mom is legitimate in her concern [about Dad], but her delivery of her concern is often accusatory and aggressive and prevents the possibility of negotiation.”  The Parent-Coordinator also testified at trial that “both as a single parent of an adult child and based on Mom’s culture and beliefs and having already raised an adult child, it would be more difficult for Mom to change her parenting ways.”  So what “culture” must one have in order to keep custody of a child?  And what “parenting” ways is she referring to?


And just like that, Mom lost the right to have a say in major life decisions affecting her daughter including the right to have a say in major health issues and religious upbringing.  Mom also lost the right to equal physical custody.  Moreover, the Clark County School District, Mom’s own employer, recently banned Mom from volunteering in her daughter’s class – apparently, volunteering during school hours is not part of Mom’s visitation rights!


To add insult to injury, Mom was ordered to pay Dad’s attorneys’ fees and costs for the privilege of losing her child, even though Dad earns about twice what Mom earns.


Where is the justice in all of this, and how is this in the best interests of the child?  How is it in keeping with Mom’s constitutional rights to have a say in the upbringing of her child?


How does this compare to cases in which a parent is guilty of abusing and neglecting a child and the parents still keep legal custody or are reunited after parenting classes?  It seems it takes more to lose a house or a car than it takes to lose a child in Judge Hughes’ courtroom.


Remember this when you vote for judges in 2020 – we need judges who understand the importance of a child being raised by both parents, and not one who makes a major life decision for a child based on a subjective opinion of someone’s attitude.


Status Check for Parent Coordinator 05/19/16 11


Evidentiary Hearing 1/09/17 09


Back on the Record 1/09/17 09


Plaintiff’s Testimony for SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY 01/09/17 11


More Testimony on financial Matters 01/09/17 15


New Rule for Financial Disclosure Forms 02/17/17 14


Rule 2.2.  Impartiality and Fairness.  A judge shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.

[1]  To ensure impartiality and fairness to all parties, a judge must be objective and open-minded.


—One hour and thirty minutes into the first day of trial, Judge Hughes and Katy Steinkamp, Parenting Coordinator also a Marriage and Family Therapist, labeled Ms. Gazala as narcissist. These are biased opinions and not based on any facts. Judge Hughes was not objective nor open minded in this case. This set the stage for the next two days of trial. This is an abuse of power. Ms. Gazala Fifth Amendment rights were already challenged.


Rule 2.3.  Bias, Prejudice, and Harassment.

(B)  A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.


On the first day of trial one hour and thirty minutes in. The discussion was about Ms. Gazala cultural and religious background and Judge Hughes asked Mrs. Steinkamp, PC, to “take it outside of child custody situation”…. First of all you can’t separate the mother from her cultural, religious beliefs, and secondly you can’t remove the mother from a child custody situation, this is why we are in court. This discrimination and prejudice of Ms. Gazala culture, beliefs, religion and sex, due to being able produce children, all of which should be taken into consideration of who she is when determining a child custody matter. A label and bias was subjected upon Ms. Gazala unfairly. Judge Hughes should have recused herself at that instant. Ms. Gazala legal rights as a mother have been stripped from her due to opinions.


(C) A judge shall require lawyers in proceedings before the court to refrain from manifesting bias or prejudice, or engaging in harassment, based upon attributes including, but not limited to, race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, against parties, witnesses, lawyers, or others.


[1]  A judge who manifests bias or prejudice in a proceeding impairs the fairness of the proceeding and brings the judiciary into disrepute.


[2] Examples of manifestations of bias or prejudice include but are not limited to epithets; slurs; demeaning nicknames; negative stereotyping; attempted humor based upon stereotypes; threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts; suggestions of connections between race, ethnicity, or nationality and crime; and irrelevant references to personal characteristics. Even facial expressions and body language can convey to parties and lawyers in the proceeding, jurors, the media, and others an appearance of bias or prejudice. A judge must avoid conduct that may reasonably be perceived as prejudiced or biased.


[3] Harassment, as referred to in paragraphs (B) and (C), is verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward a person on bases such as race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation.


[4]  Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwelcome.


Rule 2.6.  Ensuring the Right to Be Heard.

(A)  A judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law.


—Of the three days of trial, the opposing party, Odin Johnson (dad) and their witness, Mrs. Steinkamp testimonies were a third longer if not two thirds longer than Ms. Gazala testimony, which was rushed.


The last 3 hours of trial and witness how Judge Hughes is pushing for Ms. Gazala testimony to be rushed when her attorney disclosed an allotted amount of time and did not exceed it yet the opposing parties allotted amount of time far exceeded what they disclosed.


(B)  A judge may encourage parties to a proceeding and their lawyers to settle matters in dispute but shall not act in a manner that coerces any party into settlement.


—On July 21st 2016, Ms. Gazala requested the opposing party seek mediation.  Ms. Gazala filed a form for Family Mediation Center and submitted it. Judge Hughes denied her request for mediation. Many attempts made by Ms. Gazala attorney for negotiations. Ms. Gazala efforts for resolution were denied multiple times. Judge Hughes then states in her final decision that Ms. Gazala is difficult to negotiate with, which is contradicts what she was trying to achieve on many occasions. Judge Hughes did not objectively review all facts.


[1]  The right to be heard is an essential component of a fair and impartial system of justice. Substantive rights of litigants can be protected only if procedures protecting the right to be heard are observed.


[2]  The judge plays an important role in overseeing the settlement of disputes, but should be careful that efforts to further settlement do not undermine any party’s right to be heard according to law. The judge should keep in mind the effect that the judge’s participation in settlement discussions may have, not only on the judge’s own views of the case, but also on the perceptions of the lawyers and the parties if the case remains with the judge after settlement efforts are unsuccessful. Among the factors that a judge should consider when deciding upon an appropriate settlement practice for a case are whether: (1) the parties have requested or voluntarily consented to a certain level of participation by the judge in settlement discussions, (2) the parties and their counsel are relatively sophisticated in legal matters, (3) the case will be tried by the judge or a jury, (4) the parties participate with their counsel in settlement discussions, (5) any parties are unrepresented by counsel, and (6) the matter is civil or criminal.

[3]  Judges must be mindful of the effect settlement discussions can have, not only on their objectivity and impartiality, but also on the appearance of their objectivity and impartiality. Despite a judge’s best efforts, there may be instances when information obtained during settlement discussions could influence a judge’s decision making during trial, and, in such instances, the judge should consider whether disqualification may be appropriate. See Rule 2.11(A) (1).


Rule 2.1.  Giving Precedence to the Duties of Judicial Office.  The duties of judicial office, as prescribed by law, shall take precedence over all of a judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities.


The last day of trial occurred on March 20th 2017. Considering Judge Hughes already forged a bias against Ms. Gazala the first day of trial on January 9th 2017, the judge then waits until July 24th 2017 to provide a final judgement which granted her ex-husband (dad) sole custody of their daughter. Waiting several months to provide a final decision was not necessary when Judge Hughes’s decision was already made when she forged her bias on day one.


Judge Hughes takes long periods of time to make decisions in her cases. There are people’s lives on hold waiting for Judge Hughes to get back to them in a timely manner.


[1]  To ensure that judges are available to fulfill their judicial duties, judges must conduct their personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflicts that would result in frequent disqualification. See Canon 3.


[2] Although it is not a duty of judicial office unless prescribed by law, judges are encouraged to participate in activities that promote public understanding of and confidence in the justice system.


Rule 2.5.  Competence, Diligence, and Cooperation.

(A)  A judge shall perform judicial and administrative duties competently and diligently.


[1]  Competence in the performance of judicial duties requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary to perform a judge’s responsibilities of judicial office.


[2]  A judge should seek the necessary docket time, court staff, expertise, and resources to discharge all adjudicative and administrative responsibilities.


[3] Prompt disposition of the court’s business requires a judge to devote adequate time to judicial duties, to be punctual in attending court and expeditious in determining matters under submission, and to take reasonable measures to ensure that court officials, litigants, and their lawyers cooperate with the judge to that end.


[4]  In disposing of matters promptly and efficiently, a judge must demonstrate due regard for the rights of parties to be heard and to have issues resolved without unnecessary cost or delay. A judge should monitor and supervise cases in ways that reduce or eliminate dilatory practices, avoidable delays, and unnecessary costs.



The entire trial was riddled with bias and the Judge’s Final Decision is a mirror of that bias. Ms. Gazala have been a public servant to the County for over 13 years, teaching children since age 17. She have a 23 year old whom she has raised. She have no convictions or criminal records. She have more legal rights with the children she teach (whose parents respect and trust her with their child/ren more than her ex-husband does with their daughter) and yet she was stripped of her motherly rights (legal custody of her daughter) and treated worse and have less rights than a parent with a serious conviction.


Judge Hughes is to represent the highest level of ethical conduct and to uphold the law in a fair, just and objective manner. Her character in court during those 3 days of trial was unprofessional, disturbing and abuse of power to say the least. Using the Parenting Coordinator (PC), who according the PC Master Handbook, to decided who is the better parent, is providing a “custodial evaluation” which the PC has no right to do according to code 6.0 The Parenting Coordinator Limitations, 6.1. The PC will not play the role of a “custody evaluator”. And yet Judge Hughes requested the PC provide custodial evaluation in the courtroom, which is also an abuse of power.


The Judge accepted hearsay instead of considering facts, accusing Ms. Gazala in her final decision of being pulled over by a police officer and refusing to give the officer her ID. If the Judge had done her job correctly, by thoroughly reviewing all the facts she would have found that Ms. Gazala and her daughter were in a car accident and not pulled over by an officer.


Again, Judge Hughes has difficulty reviewing all the facts thoroughly, impartially, and objectively.


Even though the judge should not have used the PC for Custodial Evaluations purposes, the Parenting coordinators final testimony was that; with counseling from both parents, there is no reason why 50/50 custody should not continue. Judge Hughes did not take the PC’s final testimony into consideration for her final decision yet instead used other bias remarks (taking the mother and her culture, religion and beliefs out the child custody situation) from the PC to form her biased judgement.


Judge Hughes used the PC’s statement that dad has a special relationship with his daughter. What exactly are these assumptions based on? Ms. Gazala was clearly discriminated against and only one side is considered. Ms. Gazala relationship with her daughter is just as special as dads, but these facts were not considered. Judge Hughes would not have concluded that only dad has a special relationship had she reviewed all the facts thoroughly and objectively.


Judge Hughes has done a poor job at objectively going through all the facts of this case. She formed biased opinions long ago and it showed clearly on video during the 3 days of trial hearings and in her Final Decision. Again, Judge Hughes set the stage for trial with her bias and inability to objectively review ALL facts and testimonies fairly, my testimony being a partial one.



Over 30 other mothers have been stripped by the same judge. Please, please help us. We are fighting yet are voices are not heard. All we wish is a second chance to have our voices heard. Please view the links below.  WE NEED another chance with a fair objective judge READ THE COMMENTS FROM OTHER MOTHERS ON THIS SITE


To all the mothers who have lost their children to this corrupt judge. Please help provide us with a fair and just ruling with another judge who is objective and compassionate.


More about Katy Steinkamp, Parenting Coordinator also a Marriage and Family Therapist,


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