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Longtime RJ counsel, First Amendment champion Hinueber dies

Attorney Mark Hinueber, a passionate advocate for the First Amendment throughout his 42-year career with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other newspapers, died Thursday at a hospice in Las Vegas. He was 66.

Lawyers credited Hinueber not just with representing the RJ but with championing journalism in general, representing the interests of all media and the public and fighting for transparency in government.

Journalists appreciated that he always had their backs, defending them when they were under attack, as long as they were accurate.

“Mark helped beat back the culture of secrecy that infects many Nevada governments,” said Glenn Cook, the Review-Journal’s executive editor and vice president for news. “He was a mentor and confidant for hundreds of journalists who owe their understanding of press freedoms to his tutelage, advocacy and wisdom. He loved the news and its intersection with the law. He loved his colleagues. And he loved his family.”

When RJ reporters were ordered out of a court or government hearing, Hinueber fought for them, arguing the public’s right to know. When photographers were detained or ordered off public space while doing their jobs, he defended their rights. He argued against gag orders and for public records.

When the Board of Regents tried to do the public’s business behind closed doors while picking college presidents, he challenged them. Today, finalists for presidential openings are interviewed in public.

When the Clark County Commission refused a Nevada Public Records Act request to release call records for taxpayer-funded cellphones, he and outside counsel took the case to the Nevada Supreme Court, where they prevailed. The public got to see the call records.

“Since he came to Nevada at the end of 1999, Mark has been an unsung hero in the fight for free speech, protections for reporters and access to public records,” said attorney Maggie McLetchie, who represents the Review-Journal in public records disputes. “His efforts behind the scenes helped advance these causes — not just for the RJ but for reporters and the general public throughout the state.”

In an email to the RJ this week, McLetchie said, “Mark’s dedication to the RJ and his ethical obligations — and his love for the law — were all illustrated when I last saw him. When I walked into his hospice room, he said ‘Counselor! Tell me what’s going on with all your RJ cases!’ And when we talked about the continued fights for a free press and for government transparency, he pumped his fist in the air.”

‘Incredibly important to us’

Mike Ferguson met Hinueber when the attorney was the in-house counsel for Donrey Media Group, based in Arkansas, and Ferguson was publisher of the chain’s newspaper in Ontario, California. In 1999, the headquarters moved to Las Vegas.

“He was the one and only in-house attorney for the chain, and he assisted editors and publishers with First Amendment issues. He was incredibly important to us,” Ferguson recalled.

Later, as chief operating officer and then CEO of Donrey’s successor, RJ parent company Stephens Media, Ferguson authorized the legal expenditures when Hinueber thought it was worthwhile to challenge something in court — which is never cheap.

“He’d tell me, ‘We need to do that. It’s important,’ ” Ferguson said.

When Hinueber was diagnosed with prostate cancer early in January 2017, doctors estimated that he might have as long as five years to live. Instead it was less than two. He had hoped to witness the birth of his first grandchild, a girl who is expected in November.

“I never met anybody who faced their death with more grace,” said Ferguson, who spoke with Hinueber on Aug. 16. “He had an appreciation of what he had left, whether it was a few hours or a few days.”

Legal legacy

Don Campbell and Colby Williams worked with Hinueber on numerous cases. In 2000, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the cellphone records of Clark County Commissioners were public records subject to disclosure. In 2008, the state Supreme Court said the First Amendment guarantees public access to criminal records, including the juror questionnaire in the O.J. Simpson case. They fought defamation lawsuits in 2011 and 2014 and won.

“Mark had a true love of what makes the press such a wonderful institution,” Campbell said. “He was such a decent guy. He had an innate sense of fairness and would say, ‘We need to be fair about this.’ It was not just about not getting sued. He wanted to get it right.”

Richard Pocker, president of the State Bar of Nevada, said Hinueber devoted many volunteer hours over more than a decade as an editorial board member of the bar’s publication, Nevada Lawyer.

“There are not a lot of volunteers as consistent as he was,” Pocker said. “And he had a wicked wit, the ability to cut the crap and jargon.”

Hinueber was a 2005 graduate of Leadership Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce community leadership training program. He served on the program’s council from 2013 to 2018 and was its selection chairman/co-chairman. Because of his contributions to the program, the chamber announced Hinueber will be the 2019 inductee into the Leadership Las Vegas Hall of Fame.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said Hinueber was “a pillar for many years” for the association and had “a rare gift for being able to explain legalese like a journalist.” At annual conventions, Hinueber’s updates summarizing the various laws and cases from the previous year were among the most useful sessions, Smith said.

Hinueber’s longtime friend and colleague, Michael Zinser of Nashville, Tennessee, said, “Mark was both a newspaper man and a lawyer. He loved the newspaper business. His passion for defending the First Amendment was unequaled. For Mark, his work was fun and it was infectious. I loved working with him. My personal and professional lives are richer for having known and worked with Mark Hinueber.”

Near the end, Hinueber wrote two moving Facebook posts about his failed battle with cancer.

On Aug. 13, he posted: “Early in 2017 I lost the genetic battle men in my family have been waging for generations with cancer. Despite regular PSA screenings, I was diagnosed with aggressive Stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. …

“I did not let the disease keep me from my bucket list. I went to London, Rome, the Great Wall of China, beaches, a St Louis Cardinals/Dodgers game, a Stanley Cup final game, Go Knights Go, and Springsteen on Broadway!”

On Aug. 15, he posted:

“This is my last Facebook post. …

“Unfortunately I will not get to see my new granddaughter’s cherubic face. I imagine she will be beautiful and intelligent. I pray she will also be kind.

“I was an ethical lawyer for 42 years and defended the two greatest documents ever written, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“But, my greatest responsibility and accomplishment was my son [Tom]… [who] set his own path to responsibility and with his strong wife … and new baby girl … will make the world a better place. …

“Goodbye.”

‘Generous to a fault’

Mark Arthur Hinueber, the oldest of five children, was born May 22, 1952, in Litchfield, Illinois.

His sister Elizabeth Byrnes described him as “generous to a fault,” giving examples where he helped pay for tuition for family members.

Even his decision to opt for experimental treatments to help find cures for others was an example of his generosity and caring, Byrnes said. He told the entire family to be tested in case his illness was genetic.

“He wanted everybody else to have the chance for early treatment,” she said. “That’s the kind of person he was.”

Hinueber’s entire life was spent in the newspaper business. His family owned a free weekly in the small northern Illinois town of Rock Falls. He sold ads, wrote copy and supervised the carriers.

He attended Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, graduating in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He obtained his law degree from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

In 1978, Hinueber founded the in-house legal department for Scripps League Newspapers Inc. in San Mateo, California, staying there 17 years.

In 1994, he joined Donrey Media Group as the chain’s in-house counsel, representing both daily and weekly newspapers. Hinueber stayed on through multiple sales of the Review-Journal, becoming the RJ’s vice president, general counsel and human resources director. He retired in January 2016, staying on at the RJ as a consultant.

He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Maureen; son, Thomas; and daughter-in-law, Danielle, all of Las Vegas; two sisters, Elizabeth Byrnes of Tinley Park, Illinois, and Maggie Dicks of Nashville, Tennessee; and two brothers, Matthew of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Peter of Dallas.

Hinueber asked that any donations in his memory go to Blackburn College, the Mark Hinueber Endowment Fund c/o Mary McMurray, 700 College Ave., Carlinville, Illinois, 62626. He was on the board of trustees there for the past five years.

Services are private.

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