Nevada Supreme Court Justice Leavitt Dies

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Nevada Supreme Court Justice Myron Leavitt, who held other top local and state positions during a career that spanned five decades, died late Friday at a Las Vegas hospital. He was 73.

Leavitt, who had diabetes, had kept up with the court workload by working at home since receiving a kidney transplant Nov. 17. He had planned to rejoin the full court in Carson City in February.

His kidney and heart were functioning as expected during a doctor exam on Thursday, and the cause of death was unknown, said Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt, his daughter.

She sits in the same Department 12 courtroom that her father presided over for 15 years before he won a two-year term to the Supreme Court in 1998. He was re-elected in 2000 to a full term that was to expire in January 2007.

In addition to serving as Nevada's lieutenant governor, Leavitt was a Las Vegas city councilman, a Clark County commissioner and justice of the peace.

Leavitt ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1982, and also made two unsuccessful rough-and-tumble runs for the Supreme Court, in 1988 and in 1994.

"He was such a pleasure to work with. He will be sorely missed," Chief Justice Miriam Shearing said. "He has been a public servant for so long, his passing will be a great loss to the state."

Five of Leavitt's children are lawyers - including 36-year-old James, who donated a kidney to his father. All 11 of his children agreed to donate one of their kidneys.

"His commitment to Nevada and to the judicial process will forever be remembered," Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., said. "Nevada is a better community because of his life work, and through the legacy of his children that work will continue."

Applicants for his Supreme Court post will be screened by the Judicial Selection Commission, which will send three names to Gov. Kenny Guinn.

The governor's appointee would have to run for re-election in the November general election to fill the remainder of Leavitt's term.

Leavitt, a Las Vegas native, was a football and track star at both Las Vegas High School and the University of Nevada, Reno.

After obtaining a journalism degree at UNR and working for one year as sports editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he attended law school at the University of Utah.

While he was more reserved as a Supreme Court justice, he was no stranger to controversy when he was lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1983.

As presiding officer of the Senate, the conservative Democrat cast the deciding vote to retain the death penalty. As acting governor, he cut off the travel budget while Republican Gov. Bob List was once out of state.

A private attorney for 28 years, he successfully argued the case that forced the Legislature to reapportion itself based on population.

Other survivors include his wife, Shirley, a brother, Jack, and 34 grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at noon Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on East Wyoming Avenue in Las Vegas.