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Traveling Circuit Judges Provide Old West-Style Justice

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The way Nevada's Fifth Judicial District works is a callback to the days before Nevada became a state.

Circuit judges literally circulate from courtroom to courtroom in Nye, Mineral and Esmerelda counties.

Kim Wanker and Robert Lane are District Five's circuit judges. 

They crisscross the state every week working a variety of cases. No two work days are the same for them.

“Out there in the rurals we’re very fortunate because we get to do criminal, civil, juvenile, family, probate we do everything out there,” Judge Lane said.

Lane said they will sometimes have to spend two to three hours in the car to get from one courthouse to another.

“It’s time a think,” Judge Wanker said. Wanker said time on the road was often a time to tune out and get away because their cellphones do not work in many places in rural Nevada.

And while the laws they're enforcing are the same as in the state's urban centers, the problems they face could really only happen in a small town.

“Trying to pick jury when you only have 300 in your entire jury pool and they are all related, it is pretty tricky,” Wanker said.

Another problem, everyone knows where the judges live, including the people they sent to jail. And people recoginize them in the grocery store and sometimes ask for legal advice. 

Despite the circumstances that some might consider inconvinences, Wanker and Lane love the work they do.

“We have one of the best jobs in America to help the people and work with the criminal system and we’re very fortunate,” Lane said.

“I think every day is a good day,” Wanker said. 

Wanker and Lane are also the stars of "Traveling Justice," a reality TV show an independent production team is currently marketing. 

Kim Wanker, circuit court judge, Nevada Fifth District,  Robert Lane, circuit court judge, Nevada Fifth District

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Nikole Robinson Carroll is KNPR's Morning Edition host. You can hear her every morning from 5am until 10am on News 889. She also produces segments for KNPR's State of Nevada.