Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has recommended a young Las Vegas lawyer as a replacement for U.S. District Judge Philip Pro, who is taking "senior status" at the end of the year.
Reid, D-Nev., said he sent Ariel Stern's name last week to President Barack Obama. Reid made the revelation Friday during a visit to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
"His father was a Cuban Jew," Reid said. "He was born in Mexico, speaks fluent Spanish. He's just a brilliant man."
Stern, 36, could not be reached for comment.
Reid makes recommendations for Nevada's lifetime judgeships to the White House because he is the state's senior Democrat in Congress and the president is a member of the same party.
Most senators use a committee to help them select judges, Reid said.
"I have my own committee, but it's composed of me," he joked. "And I really am happy with the choices I've made over the years."
Other U.S. district judges in Nevada who were recommended by Reid include Roger Hunt, Kent Dawson and Gloria Navarro.
Most recently, Reid recommended Reno attorney Miranda Du, 41, as a replacement for Hunt, 69, who took senior status in May.
Obama then nominated Du, who is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Reid said he learned about Du from his son Leif, a Reno attorney. "He said, 'Dad, she really is just a great lawyer,' " the senator said.
Both Hunt and Pro were eligible to retire this year, but they chose instead to continue working as senior judges. Pro will take senior status at year's end, after he turns 65.
Nevada has seven spots for active U.S. district judges, five in Las Vegas and two in Reno. Adding more requires the approval of Congress, but there is no limit on the number of senior judges who can handle cases in a district. Pro will be Nevada's fifth senior U.S. district judge.
Pro was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and took office in July 1987. He was a U.S. magistrate judge for nearly seven years before that.
According to the State Bar of Nevada website, Stern attended law school at Yale University and received his license to practice law in Nevada in October 2002. He also is licensed in New York.
"I got to know him because his wife worked for me in Washington," Reid said. "She's smarter than he is."
Stern leads the Las Vegas office of the Akerman Senterfitt law firm. According to the firm's website, he concentrates his practice in matters of commercial litigation, real estate litigation, business litigation, administrative law and election law, and previously worked in Reid's office "overseeing day-to-day operations."
Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jones, who is based in Reno, said Stern has appeared before him. Jones described Stern as a "terrific lawyer."
"I would certainly think he'd be a very good candidate for the office, based on his professional appearances in the court," Jones said.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710.