|Justice Parraguirre Will be New Chief Justice at Nevada Supreme Court|
|Wednesday, 30 December 2009 08:05|
Chief Justice Hardesty Ends Duties after Productive Year
With the end of the year comes a change in leadership at the Nevada Supreme Court. The figurative gavel-of-administrative-authority is being passed from Chief Justice James W. Hardesty to Justice Ron Parraguirre, who will serve as Chief Justice through 2010.
The Chief Justice is the administrative head of the Judicial Branch and the public voice of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice also oversees the direction of the Judiciary’s activities. A majority vote of the full court, however, is necessary for any major action.
For Chief Justice Hardesty, it was a busy and very challenging year.
At the 2009 Session of the Nevada Legislative, the Supreme Court cut its budget to do its part during the state’s crisis, but still managed to ensure that all cases were being processed and necessary services were being provided. At the same time, Chief Justice Hardesty won approval from the Legislature for nine new District Court judges in Clark County and one in Washoe County, with funding being provided through fee increases rather than General Fund dollars.
He also was instrumental in the implementation of the Foreclosure Mediation Program at no cost to taxpayers – a critical program in Nevada, which has the nation’s highest foreclosure rate. Chief Justice Hardesty also worked with legislators to retain the highly successful and cost effective Senior Judge program.
“In today’s hard economic times, the Court has managed to keep the wheels of justice turning and the doors open for business,” said Chief Justice Hardesty. “In addition to cutting the Court’s budget, we reverted more than $2 million for fiscal year 2009 to the State General Fund.”
The Senior Judge Program proved its value during the year when those judges were assigned to preside over marathon settlement sessions involving lingering medical malpractice cases and Family Court cases. Of the 75 cases involved, 38 were resolved as a direct result of the settlement sessions, and others resolved soon afterward.
Chief Justice Hardesty also initiated an innovative Family Court settlement program in Clark County utilizing Senior Judges as mediators or as judges presiding over short trials. The resolution rate was 77 percent, allowing many families to complete their divorces and settle child custody disputes quickly, rather than through prolonged litigation. Another series of settlement conferences is scheduled for January and February 2010 involving about 100 cases.
As part of the Supreme Court’s efforts to ensure access to justice, Chief Justice Hardesty worked with Nevada banks to ensure that the highest interest rates were available for lawyer trust accounts –accounts lawyers use when receiving funds on behalf of their clients. The interest on those accounts is used to fund programs that provide legal assistance to persons who cannot afford to hire lawyers in non-criminal matters. Lawyers are required to use banks that pay the high interest rates.
During 2009, Nevada became the sixth state in the country to update its code of conduct for judges when the Supreme Court adopted many rule changes recommended by the American Bar Association and the Court’s Judicial Conduct Code Commission.
Chief Justice Hardesty also oversaw major technological improvements at the Nevada Supreme Court. The Court implemented a system allowing for the electronic filing of cases, which reduces costs, improves efficiency and enhances public access to court cases and documents. The Supreme Court also continued work on a new case management system.
During Chief Justice Hardesty’s term, the Supreme Court expanded rules authorizing attorneys to appear in limited jurisdiction and district courts for many matters by telephone or other audiovisual links. This will save money for litigants and attorneys, and improve the ability of citizens in rural communities to secure legal assistance.
“Despite adversities, the judiciary had a number of successes during 2009,” Chief Justice Hardesty said. “Many achievements, such as the implementation of the Foreclosure Mediation Program and the addition of new judges in Clark and Washoe Counties, were accomplished without increasing the burden on taxpayers.”
“Any success this year should be credited to the hard work and dedication of the entire Supreme Court and the judges and court staff throughout the state,” Chief Justice Hardesty said. “Nevada’s courts should be proud of our accomplishments and I am confident our fellow Nevadans will benefit from the improvements made by Nevada’s Judiciary.”
“I have no doubt that Chief Justice Parraguirre will continue our path of progress toward making the Nevada Judiciary one of the best in the country,” Chief Justice Hardesty said.
JUDGES’ COMMENT ABOUT CHIEF JUSTICE HARDESTY
“The Chief Justice should be the leader of our legal system,” said Second Judicial District Judge Brent Adams. “Chief Justice Hardesty certainly exemplified that role in the past year. He has represented the Supreme Court and the court system superbly.”
“He has been a steady leader for all courts in the state,” added Eighth Judicial District Chief Judge Art Ritchie. “He obtained resources for urban and rural courts, and set a good example in fiscal responsibility for all courts in the state.”
“Chief Justice Hardesty did a tremendous job in terms of dealing with the Legislature,” said Fourth Judicial District Judge Andrew Puccinelli. “His ‘business plan’ in Assembly Bill 65 (increasing fees on civil filings to fund court operations) was phenomenal and has been very good for the rural courts.”
Eighth Judicial District Presiding Family Court Judge Gloria Sanchez credits Chief Justice Hardesty for the settlement program’s success. “If we needed him, he was there for Family Court. He listens, cares, and tries to help with solutions. We are blessed to have him as our chief justice.”
Carson City Justice of the Peace John Tatro praised Chief Justice Hardesty for his successes at the Nevada Legislature. “I have been attending legislative sessions for 15 years and have never worked with a chief justice as effective as Chief Justice Hardesty. We’ve had great chief justices, but he took it to another level. He was tenacious and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.”
CHIEF JUSTICE HARDESTY BIOGRAPHY
Chief Justice James W. Hardesty is a native Nevadan having been born and raised in Reno, Nevada. He has been married for 38 years to his wife, Sandy, who retired this year as a high school teacher. Together they have two children and five grandchildren.
Chief Justice Hardesty attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he was elected President of the Student Body and was named outstanding senior graduate in 1970. He earned his law degree from the University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law.
Chief Justice Hardesty practiced law in the Reno/Sparks area from 1975 through 1998. He received the highest rating of AV by Martindale-Hubbell, a nationally recognized publication of lawyer ratings.
In November 1998, Chief Justice Hardesty was elected District Court Judge for the Second Judicial District Court in Washoe County. He took the bench in January 1999 where he served through December 2004. He was elected by his fellow judges to serve two terms as Chief Judge and also served as President of the Nevada District Judges Association in 2003.
In November 2004, Chief Justice Hardesty was elected to the Nevada Supreme Court.
As a District Court Judge and as a Nevada Supreme Court Justice, he has served on various Supreme Court Commissions including: the Nevada Supreme Court Task Force to create a Business Court in Nevada, the Nevada Supreme Court Task Force studying the Multi-Jurisdictional Practice of Law, the Nevada Supreme Court Commission on Judicial Funding, and the Nevada Supreme Court Committee to Implement Recommendations of the Jury Improvement Commission.
Chief Justice Hardesty currently co-chairs the Nevada Supreme Court Bench-Bar Committee, the Nevada Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, and was the chairperson of the Nevada Legislature's Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice, and the Nevada State-Federal Judicial Council.
From 1978 through 1991, Chief Justice Hardesty coached Bobby Sox Softball teams that included his daughters. In 1991, his team won the National Fast Pitch Championship