LAS VEGAS — Two veteran Nevada Supreme Court justices said Monday they will retire at the end of their current terms, setting up an election in November 2018 that will put two new members on the seven-member bench for the first time in 14 years.
Justices Michael Douglas and Michael Cherry said in brief comments before an appellate hearing in Las Vegas that they’ll retire in January 2019.
“I’m not leaving today or tomorrow. I’ll still be around … for another year,” said Douglas, 69, who became the first black justice on the state high court when he was appointed by Republican former Gov. Kenny Guinn in March 2004. Douglas, who went on to win elections three times, will serve as chief justice next year.
Cherry, 72, the current chief justice, was elected in November 2006 and took his seat in January 2007. He noted that filing starts in January for judicial elections, and closed his comments with a blessing that he gave at his recent State of the Judiciary speech.
“The work goes on,” Cherry said. “The cause endures. The hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
The retirements set up a contest that could change the balance of a court that is considered relatively moderate, said Eric Herzik, political science department chairman at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“The Nevada Supreme Court, really since 2004, hasn’t had a liberal or conservative tilt,” Herzik said. “It will be interesting to see if there is an ideological candidate who comes in — someone clearly backed by conservative groups or clearly backed by liberal groups — or if it is a legal community fight, which is what we often have.”
The last time two justices were elected at once in Nevada was in November 2004, a year after a bitter tax fight between the governor and the state Legislature prompted a lawsuit that was tossed to the justices. The court in 2003 decided that lawmakers could approve tax measures by less than a two-thirds vote.
Justices James Hardesty, then a state court judge from Reno, and Ron Parraguirre, a judge from Las Vegas, were elected in 2004. Douglas won his first full term in the same election, just months after he was appointed.
State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Abbi Silver and Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish have said they plan to run for Supreme Court seats. Several other candidates are expected.
Silver, a former Clark County District Court judge, said Monday that she’ll seek Douglas’s position. She was named in December 2014 by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval as one of three members on the newly created state appellate court.
Cadish will seek Cherry’s seat. Cadish was nominated in 2012 by Democratic President Barack Obama for a U.S. District Court seat in Nevada.
She withdrew her name the following year after Republicans raised questions about a 2008 questionnaire answer that said she believed in “reasonable restrictions … on gun ownership in the interest of public safety.”
Cadish also was one of three nominees considered in 2016 by Sandoval for appointment to a state Supreme Court vacancy. Lidia Stiglich was appointed.