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District judge could make court history

by Sarah Hauck
shauck@recordcourier.com

A Minden judge met with Gov. Brian Sandoval today for a final interview in hopes of becoming one of the first appellate court judges in Nevada’s history.

With more than 34 years of experience in various fields of law, District Court Judge Michael Patrick Gibbons could find out as soon as Friday whether he will be one of the first three judges to sit on the first ever court of appeals for the state of Nevada.

Gibbons travelled to Las Vegas on Dec. 4 for an interview in front of the Nevada Commission of Judicial Selection.



“It seemed like the logical progression for my career in terms of how I can assist the judicial system as a whole,” Gibbons said. “I’m hoping my unique experience will be recognized by the commission.”

Gibbons explained that the shift from behind the district bench to the appeals seat will require him to do the research on a case that is currently provided to him by both sides in district court.



“As a judge you’re just a receptacle of information that’s fed to you by other people,” Gibbons said. “At the appeals court, a record is created by both sides and sent to us. We are even more limited than we are now. We will have time to look at the record and make sure we understand it and research it and carefully make sure all points of views are covered.”

The interview in Las Vegas required Gibbons to sift through more than 20 years of his court cases to be able to pinpoint his five most influential cases in his career.

“That question was the hardest to answer because I had to narrow it down to only five,” Gibbons said. “Then I had to describe my role in the case and sort through it all and make sure I got all the major bullet points.”

Gibbons shared with the commission that the bombing of the Harvey’s Casino in Tahoe in August 1980 was on of the most important court cases he’s been a part of.

With the involvement of the FBI, it was Gibbons’ job to determine how the people involved should be prosecuted on the state level.

The interview process Gibbons thought went well for him, answering the final catch all question with more than one line like most of the other candidates.

“The last question was kind of a catch-all,” Gibbons said. “They asked ‘Other than being a judge what else do you like to do?’ Most people were giving one-liners. I couldn’t leave it at one line. I took two pages on that mainly talking about soccer.”

As an avid soccer referee and retired coach, Gibbons feels his experience with children both inside and outside the courtroom would be benefit the court of appeals.

“Soccer is a way to be involved with my children and other children outside the court. It is beneficial to children and families,” Gibbons said.

Helping people, especially children and families, are elements that Gibbons loves about being in the court system and hopes can still be pursued should he get the appeals seat.

“It is enjoyable when I actually help someone, particularly families and children,” Gibbons said. “Every day I feel like I’m accomplishing something and advancing the use of justice. I want to continue to do things that can affect the state in a positive way.”

Gibbons feels his small town experience is an asset that others can’t bring to the new court.

“I’m really the only rural judge on the list of applicants,” Gibbons said. “I see so many different cases that the bigger cities don’t see because they have so many different courts for different kinds of cases. We see everything here.”

Being behind the district court bench for almost 20 years, Gibbons has extensive experience with trials involving juries.

“I have a lot of jury trial experience in my career,” Gibbons said. “I have over 100 jury trials as a deputy district attorney and a judge. I also have more than 500 nonjury trials in my whole career.”

If Gibbons is selected for the seat, he could work out of Carson City, if a space is created for the appeals court, or from Las Vegas.

“I would like to stay where I am. This is the best county in the state,” Gibbons said. “If I have to go to Vegas, I will stay at my brother’s place. If it ends up being a longer-term situation, I will end up getting a condo or something. “

It took Gibbons several months of deliberation as to whether to even apply for the position.

“I love this job (district judge), it’s not like I need to make a change. These opportunities don’t come along often. The opportunity kind of presented itself,” Gibbons said. “I thought I had a lot to offer. I think I have a lot of experience. I talked to other district judges before I actually started the extensive application process. They (district judges) had no downsides. They all explained that it’s different, but they all felt they are all good differences. I’ll still be looking at helping people, just in a different way. I’m still going to focus on a speedy resolution of cases. Quality resolutions, that are speedy is a lot of hard work. I don’t like to do things easily. I wouldn’t do anything that wasn’t hard. I want to help people as best I can.”