US District Judge Larry Hicks dies at 80 after being struck by vehicle near Nevada courthouse

Authorities in Nevada and his family say longtime U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks died at age 80 after being struck by a vehicle near the courthouse in Reno

Scott Sonner
Thursday 30 May 2024 22:21 BST

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Larry Hicks, a federal judge in Nevada for more than 20 years who presided over cases ranging from U.S. environmental disputes to political corruption trials, died after being struck by a vehicle at an intersection near the federal courthouse in Reno, authorities and his family said. He was 80.

Hicks was pronounced dead at a hospital after the crash Wednesday afternoon, Reno police said in a news release that said the driver cooperated with authorities, and impairment didn’t appear to be a factor.

Hicks was the father of current Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks, whose office released a statement on behalf of the Hicks family.

“Judge Larry Hicks was a deeply admired lawyer and judge, a devoted friend, mentor, and a committed servant to the administration of justice,” the statement said. “To us, he was first and foremost, a man who put nothing before family. He was a hero in all manners, a loving husband of nearly 59 years, a doting dad, an adoring Papa, and brother. His loss is beyond comprehension.”

Hicks was nominated to the U.S. District Court for Nevada in 2001 by Republican President George W. Bush and was sworn in shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. He continued to hear cases after assuming senior judge status in 2012.

His caseload sampled all slices of Nevada life, from conflicts over water rights, wild horses and gold mines to crooked politicians, casino workers, Las Vegas entertainers and championship boxers.

In one of his highest-profile trials, Hicks sentenced Nevada lobbyist and political power broker Harvey Whittemore to prison for two years in 2013 for making illegal contributions to Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's campaign in 2007.

Sitting in Las Vegas instead of his usual Reno courtroom, Hicks sentenced three former Clark County commissioners to federal prison in 2006 after a sensational trial in a federal political corruption case, dubbed “Operation G-sting,” that stemmed from bribes paid to elected officials by a strip club owner.

Hicks heard dozens of conservationist challenges of federal land management decisions in Nevada, where U.S. government agencies control about four-fifths of the land. He often deferred to U.S. Bureau of Land Management expertise in approval of controversial mining projects and wild horse roundups, but not always.

Last year, he sided with opponents of a U.S. appellate court's strict interpretation of a 150-year-old mining law that blocked a metals mine in Nevada. In 2015, he handed horse advocates a rare victory when he temporarily blocked a federal roundup of hundreds of mustangs.

Among celebrity cases, Hicks ordered rock star Rod Stewart to pay a Las Vegas casino more than $3 million in 2006 for not returning money he was paid before he canceled a concert in 2000. In 2012, he ordered boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. to pay about $114,000 to rival fighter Manny Pacquiao’s lawyers in a defamation case.

Perhaps more than any other, the Whittemore case offered both a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sometimes cozy political and business relationships in a western state like Nevada and the sort of candor and calm demeanor on the bench that won him respect from prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.

He put the trial on hold at one point, telling lawyers on both sides that he was “conditionally recusing” himself for at least a week so they could decide whether they thought he should continue, in light of a variety of past business and family relationships he disclosed during a 40-minute hearing.

Hicks said he had known Whittemore casually probably more than 20 years. The judge said that rather than put any of the lawyers in the “awkward” position of having to make a motion to toss Hicks off the case, his recusal would become permanent if his clerk didn't receive confidential letters from each party indicating they wanted to waive the judge’s recusal. Both sides did, and praised Hicks' handling of the matter.

Hicks was born in Evanston, Illinois; graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Colorado School of Law; and became a prosecutor in Reno in 1968. He was elected as Washoe County district attorney in 1975 and served until 1979, when he joined a prominent Nevada law firm, according to the State Bar of Nevada. He was awarded the association’s Presidential Award in 2020.

Flags will be flown at half-staff over Nevada’s federal courthouses, the U.S. District Court said.

___

An earlier version was corrected to show that Hicks assumed senior status in 2012, not 2013, and was elected Washoe County district attorney in 1975 and served until 1979, instead of serving from 1974-78.

___

Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Jeff McMillan in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in