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Back Story: Advisors, Activists and Acolytes: U.S. Ninth Circuit Lawyer Representatives in the District of Nevada

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Few experienced federal court practitioners would quarrel with the proposition that the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada is one of the flagships of the federal judicial system. The court has successfully managed the complications that accompany two decades of rapid growth in both district population and judicial caseloads, all while maintaining an outstanding reputation for excellence, fairness and responsiveness throughout the federal, local and national trial bars. Most significantly for Nevada attorneys the court has established a standard of accessibility and dignity which enhances the quality of local practice well beyond the standards and experience found elsewhere in the country. Co-counsel from out of state routinely confirms this. Lawyers may not always win their motions, trials and hearings, but they can be assured that they will be treated with respect and courtesy, secure in the knowledge that their arguments have been carefully and fairly considered. In our business, there isn’t much more one can ask. This reputation was not built on judicial performance alone. Key to the court’s accessibility and genuine willingness to entertain, study and address the concerns of the attorneys who practice in Nevada’s federal courts, has been the manner in which the judges have enhanced the role of the district’s lawyer representatives, faithfully and effectively including them in the formulation and evaluation of the decisions that affect federal court practice. The district’s lawyer representatives are appointed pursuant to a process involving nominations by the State Bar of Nevada and a careful selection process by the U.S. District Court judges. The Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference authorizes the appointment of a specific number of representatives, and the court selects them to serve three-year terms, which are staggered to insure some continuity of experience. Lawyer representatives are typically experienced federal court practitioners, selected to include attorneys from both northern and southern Nevada, and from civil, criminal and bankruptcy practices. Representatives function as liaisons between the federal bench and the federal bar, attending quarterly meetings, with the district judges, magistrate judges and federal agency representatives, where decisions relating to federal court practice are discussed and made. Among the more visible and effective contributions by lawyer representatives is participation on numerous court committees such as the local rules committees for civil, criminal and bankruptcy practice, the District Conference Planning Committee, the Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) Advisory Committee (addressing issues with the court’s electronic filing system) and the Court Security Committee, an increasingly important committee given recent tragic assaults on courthouse personnel. Lawyer representatives also assist in the administration of the Attorney Admissions Fund through the fund’s advisory group, evaluating and voting upon applications for expenditures from the fund. Lawyer representatives plan, facilitate and attend the Annual District Court Conference, generally held in April or May of
each year. The location alternates between Reno and Las Vegas. Each year the conference includes informative addresses from the district’s chief judge and the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, an educational program on timely subjects of interest, lunch with the judges and question-and-answer sessions with panels of judges, magistrates and often Ninth Circuit judges. The district’s interests are reflected and protected by lawyer representative participation in the annual Ninth Circuit Conference, and other circuit-wide gatherings. The co-chairs of Nevada’s delegation also serve on the Lawyer Representatives Coordinating Committee, which assists in planning the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, the Circuit Chief District Judges Meeting, and the annual Chief Bankruptcy Judges Meeting. Most significantly, lawyer representatives are regularly and sincerely consulted by the judges and court staff regarding the potential impact of court policies. These consultations result in greater coordination of the court’s aims and needs with those of the Nevada federal bar. The court further magnifies the effectiveness of this channel of communication and influence by the quality of its selection process. District of Nevada lawyer representative alumni include a judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Johnnie Rawlinson), a U.S. District Court judge (Roger Hunt), a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge (Bruce Beesley), a Nevada Supreme Court justice (M. Kristina Pickering), a former U.S. magistrate judge (Robert McQuaid), a recently selected future U.S. magistrate judge (Nancy Koppe), a current U.S. magistrate judge (William Cobb) and at least three current judges on the Eighth Judicial District Court bench (Judges Cadish, Sturman and Earl), not to mention two former U.S. Attorneys, the former chief counsel to the Select Subcommittee of the U.S. House International Relations Committee, numerous former prosecutors, the former general counsel of Coast Resorts (Barry Lieberman) and a nationally prominent Republican Party official (Joe Brown). Not bad company for any lawyer or judge to be keeping. At the 2006 Ninth Circuit Conference a lawyer representative from one of the California federal districts complained to me that she had experienced little to no contact with her districts’ judges since assuming her position. In her words, she “couldn’t pick (her district judges) out of a line up.” I can’t imagine any Nevada lawyer representative having such a problem. Then again, I can’t imagine any of our district’s judges ever being part of a line up.
RicHaRD J. POckER is the administrative partner for the Nevada office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP . A former assistant United States Attorney and interim United States Attorney, Pocker is a veteran of the U.S. Army JAG Corps, served as chief counsel to a U.S. congressional investigation and chaired the state bar’s Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board. Pocker is a 1980 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School.
Nevada Lawyer October 2012

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