First Black Sworn in to Nevada High Court

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Michael Douglas, former chief Clark County district judge, was sworn in Monday as the first black justice in the 140-year history of the Nevada Supreme Court.

During and after his investiture, Douglas, 56, told of racial incidents that other blacks - including his father - faced in Nevada in past years. He added that growing up in Los Angeles he never imagined a legal career in Nevada capped by an appointment to the state's highest court.

"Please understand, I do believe in liberty and justice for all - not just for some but for all," he said in outlining his goals on the court.

Asked about the Supreme Court's mid-2003 ruling that temporarily lifted a two-thirds' voting requirement on new taxes, Douglas said he thought a better solution would have been to force state lawmakers to "do their job" and vote on the tax plan.

But Douglas also said the high court must at times interpret the Nevada Constitution when different provisions are at odds. That was the case last summer when Gov. Kenny Guinn petitioned the court to help resolve a legislative impasse over taxes.

Guinn, who appointed Douglas to replace the late Justice Myron Leavitt, praised Douglas as highly qualified and said, "Today is one of those days we will always remember."

Former Clark County District Judge Gene Porter said it's important that a black is finally on the state Supreme Court - and even more important that Douglas is a person of integrity who comes to the court "without an agenda."

Douglas' appointment is good through December. On Monday he also filed for a full six-year term on the court. So far, he faces no opposition.

Born in Los Angeles, Douglas graduated from the University of California's Hastings College of Law in San Francisco in 1974. After moving to Las Vegas in 1982, he worked for Nevada Legal Services for two years and then served as a deputy attorney general from 1984 to 1995. He has served since 1996 as a district judge in Las Vegas.

The newest member of the state Supreme Court has been active in numerous legal associations and has received several awards. Douglas, who is married, also has been a longtime youth sports volunteer and coach.

Leavitt, 73, who had diabetes and underwent a kidney transplant last November, died unexpectedly on Jan. 9.

Before being elected to the high court in 1998, Leavitt ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1982, and also had served as lieutenant governor, a Las Vegas city councilman, Clark County commissioner and justice of the peace.


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