Gov. Brian Sandoval is expected to name Douglas County's new district court judge within 30 days after a judicial selection commission recommended three finalists.
Selected Tuesday after a day of interviews were Minden attorneys James R. Hales, 53, and Tod Young, 54, and Reno lawyer Marc Picker, 55.
One of them will be appointed to fill the last two years of Judge Dave Gamble's term upon his retirement, effective Jan. 6.
Seven attorneys filed applications for the post including Douglas District Attorney Mark Jackson, 49, of Gardnerville; Caren Cafferata-Jenkins, 54, of Carson City; Mark J. Lenz, 61, of Reno and Gina C. Session, 54, of Carson City.
Chief Justice Michael Cherry chaired the commission of seven permanent members and two temporary appointees who interviewed the candidates Tuesday at the Supreme Court.
The finalists said they were honored to be under consideration for the judgeship Gamble has held for 25 years.
"I am appreciative of the confidence displayed in me by the commission's vote, especially in light of the high quality of all seven applicants," Hales said Wednesday.
During his interview, Hales said he hadn't done extensive criminal work, but felt he had the skills and work ethic to get up to speed.
"What you want from your district court judge in Douglas County is someone who has the knowledge and ability to learn quickly. You need someone who is willing to learn, knows he has to learn, and is willing to work hard," Hales said.
Hales said he was "very electable."
"I am well known and have participated in the community. People know me, and I know them. I am prepared to do well," he said.
He was a deputy public defender in Clark County from 1987-89, and has worked in civil litigation since 1989.
He is a partner in Rowe Hales Yturbide, LLP in Minden.
Young is a criminal defense attorney in private practice. He also is one of Douglas County's three court-appointed attorneys to handle indigent criminal defendants.
He was admitted to the Nevada bar in 1985.
"This idea of practicing in other areas of law is one of the real attractions for me. It's invigorating to learn something new," he told the panel.
Young said although his practice emphasized criminal law, he was confident he could adjudicate family and civil law.
"I care deeply about our judicial system. I care about people, I care about fairness. I can make a decision that makes people feel they were heard before the decision was made. There is a long history of people who have cared about the quality of law in Douglas County. I would like to follow in that tradition," he said.
Young said Wednesday he was pleased to make the finalists' list.
"I am very happy to be in the top three because there were so many qualified applicants. Any of those people who interviewed would do an outstanding job. It was a difficult choice for the commission," he said.
Picker also applied for the Washoe County district court vacancy.
He told the panel that if selected, he would move to Douglas County.
"Judge Gamble is probably the hardest judge in the state to replace," Picker said. "He's got the best personality of a judge. Not only does he hear what's being said, he considers what they said. Judge Gamble can talk to people and put them at ease to get to the issue," Picker said.
As judge, Picker said, he would have the best interests of both parties involved.
His main emphasis is civil law and criminal defense, but Picker said he had practiced family law.
"As a lawyer, you're looked at as an advocate. Stepping up to the position of judge, you're an advocate for the Constitution and the Nevada Constitution. You're an advocate for the law," he said. "I would be exercising everything I've learned in the last 24 years. Trying to step into court where Judge Gamble has laid such a great, great legacy would be a fantastic reward."
Picker said Wednesday he had considered moving to Douglas County in the past, but had children in school.
"That's not the situation anymore. I would very much welcome moving to Douglas County," he said. "It would be very exciting to sit as judge and try to follow the legacy of Judge Gamble."
Picker has appeared numerous times in District Court, recently representing convicted murderer Karen Bodden in her request for a new trial where he argued against District Attorney Jackson.
On Tuesday, Jackson congratulated the finalists.
"I consider them all friends," he said. "Tod and I go way back, working cases together and on opposite sides. Tod, Jim Hales and Marc Picker have the highest levels of integrity. Any one of them would do a great job in filling Judge Gamble's shoes."
The successful candidate will face re-election in 2014 for a six-year term. All of the candidates indicated at their interviews Tuesday they would be willing to run and considered themselves electable.
ON THE WEB
Applications are posted on the Supreme Court website:
Click on "Commissions and Committees, then "Commission on Judicial Selection."
Public comment on the three applicants may be sent to:
Gov. Brian Sandoval
Office of the Governor
State Capitol Building
101 N. Carson St.
Carson City, NV 89701