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Chief Justice’s Award presented to Retired Judges John McGroarty and Nancy Oesterle
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 08:50

Chief Justice AwardNevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Cherry presented his Chief Justice’s Award to retired District Judge John McGroarty and retired Justice of the Peace Nancy Oesterle on December 3, 2012, for their decades of service and the innovative programs they started.

The award was presented in the Supreme Court’s Las Vegas courtroom, which was packed with judges from throughout the Regional Justice Center, the recipients’ families, and court staff.

This is just the second time the Chief Justice’s Award is being presented.  In May, when Justice Nancy Saitta was Chief Justice, she presented the inaugural Chief Justice’s Award to the late Elko District Judge Andrew Puccinelli. 

The Chief Justice’s Award is given annually to the person, persons, or entity that the Chief Justice determines has made a significant contribution to the administration of justice in Nevada.



Judge McGroarty began his judicial career in 1978 when he was appointed justice of the peace in Las Vegas.  He became a district judge in 1982 and served until retiring in 2006.

A longtime child advocate, served six years as juvenile judge in Clark County.

“Judge McGroarty was the driving force behind the formation of Family Court and, perhaps more importantly, he was the driving force behind the creation of Mental Health Court in Clark County,” Chief Justice Cherry said.  “As Mental Health Court judge he touched many lives, provided hope for those who the system had failed, and changed the perception of how we should treat those mentally ill individuals whose actions bring them to our courts.”

McGroarty graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in 1958 before going on to Notre Dame and then Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. 

After graduating, he became an aide to the late U.S. Senator Howard Cannon and then worked for the Democratic National Committee.  He attended the Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a delegate in 1968. 

He worked on the presidential campaign of Hubert Humphrey that year, but when Humphrey lost, McGroarty returned to Las Vegas and practiced law with Richard Bryan and Oscar Goodman.  He took a job as administrative assistant and advisor to Governor Michael O’Callaghan and served there until his appointment to the bench.

McGroarty retired in 2006, but came back to serve as a senior judge in the Mental Health Court. 


“Judge Oesterle held only one judicial position – Las Vegas Justice of the Peace – but what she meant to the Nevada Judiciary and the people of Clark County is immeasurable,” Chief Justice Cherry said. 

Judge Oesterle was appointed to the Las Vegas Justice Court in 1990, becoming the first female appointed to that bench.  She was re-elected three times and served as chief judge twice before retiring in 2010.

She still serves as a Senior Justice of the Peace.

“Not only was she dedicated to the law for most of her life, but she was equally dedicated to educating the people of Clark County – and particularly children – about the law,” he said.  “For more than 15 years, Nancy hosted the television show Law for the Layman, which explained how the courts work, and explored topical legal issues.”

She also created what she called her Keys to the Courthouse program.  Judge Oesterle would visit elementary schools to tell students about the courts, and then bring the students to her courtroom so they could see for themselves how the criminal justice system works. 

More than 8,000 students visited her courtroom during her career.

Before becoming a judge, Oesterle spent 10 years as a prosecutor.  For six years she was also a member of the board of the Clark County Bar Association.  She was president in 1990.

As a member of the CCBA board, she initiated the popular annual Meet the Judges mixer and the annual 40-year-Club Luncheon.  She was also instrumental in bringing the Trial by Peers program to the CCBA.

In 1993, the Clark County Bar Association presented her with its Distinguished Presidential Service Award.

That same year she was honored by the Chamber of Commerce with a Women of Achievement award.

In 2010 she received the Clark County Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award.

Judge Oesterle graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, before going on to law school at California Western School of Law in San Diego.


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