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Judicial Profile: Hon. Brent Adams

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A former reporter for the Associated Press, an avid reader and an amateur cellist, Brent Adams has seen more than his fair share of changes to the judicial system and the practice of law in his 30 years of practice. Adams is currently a judge with the Second Judicial District Court; he has served for more than 20 years on the bench and said the way in which cases are tried has changed monumentally during the past few decades. “Litigation has left the courthouse,” he said. “When I was a boy, the courthouse was a beehive of activity,” Adams explained. “[Now,] civil caseload in most urban districts in the U.S. … is down.” Adams said this drop is due to mediation, arbitration and other alternative resolution methods eclipsing litigation. This change means attorneys need a new set of skills. Adams said what he admires most in attorneys appearing before him, is the ability to, “help clients move forward instead of dwelling on past facts of [a] case.” Attorneys who can do this, he believes, and can also get to know the presiding judge, their opposing counsel and the jury, stand a better chance of winning. Adams cited graciousness and professionalism as two other hallmarks of good, competent attorneys. “The most effective advocacy – understand everything,” Adams said. Using the example of President Ronald Reagan, who managed to get re-elected in spite of having only a 50 percent approval rating, Adams said likeability cannot be discounted. He said he believes that an attorney who is liked by a jury has an increased chance of obtaining a favorable verdict.
Most Memorable Case
Adams’ most memorable case was one for the headlines: In 1998, Peter Bergna, an
Nevada Lawyer June 2013
antiques dealer from Reno, was accused of murdering his wife by propelling his pickup truck over a 100-foot cliff on Mount Rose with her inside. Bergna was also in the truck, but jumped out before it careened off the cliff side. The trial lasted eight weeks and, after five days of deliberation, it concluded with a hung jury. Adams sat through another eight-week trial and, after four days of deliberation, the second jury found Bergna guilty; he was sentenced to life in prison. Adams said from the beginning of the trial he knew it would be widely followed, and he was right – the case caught the attention of national media, including the popular television show “48 Hours.”
The late Roger D. Foley, a former district court judge, inspired Adams. “He was a sweet, modest person. He was a very religious man,” Adams said. “He told me that a trial judge has a great deal of power, and the trick is how often you can refrain from using it.” Adams also drew inspiration from Samuel Lionel, one of the founders of Lionel Sawyer & Collins. Adams clerked for Lionel for two summers and praised him as a great teacher and selfless person. “[He was] never thinking about himself, just about the case,” Adams said. Outside of the courtroom, Adams enjoys practicing the cello, reading, walking his two dogs and “Singing the eternal praises of my wife and sons.”
June 2013 Nevada Lawyer

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