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Longtime Nevada federal judge dies after struck by vehicle

Updated May 30, 2024 - 5:19 pm

Senior U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks died Wednesday afternoon after he was hit by a vehicle near the district courthouse in downtown Reno, the Reno Police Department said. He was 80.

“Today, our community lost an extraordinary man,” said a statement released on behalf of 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.”

Officials responded to a call around 2:15 p.m. Wednesday after a vehicle struck Hicks at the intersection of South Virginia Street and California Avenue, according to the release from Reno police.

The driver remained on the scene and was cooperating with the investigation, police said, adding that “impairment does not appear to be a factor in this crash.”

Hicks was taken to a nearby hospital but died shortly after, police said.

“To us, he was first and foremost, a man who put nothing before family,” the family’s statement continued. “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.”

Flags at federal courthouses in Nevada will be flown at half-staff in his honor, said a statement from the chief judge of Nevada’s federal court, Judge Miranda Du.

“It is with great sadness that we share with you that the Honorable Judge Larry Hicks passed away,” Du said in a brief statement announcing Hicks’ death.

‘Wonderfully thoughtful and fair judge, colleague and friend’

Retired U.S. District Judge Philip Pro called Hicks a “truly wonderful human being” he considered a good friend. The two served together on the federal court bench for more than a decade, Pro said.

“He was a highly respected and wonderfully thoughtful and fair judge, colleague and friend,” Pro wrote in an email. “His tragic death is an enormous loss to Nevada’s Federal Court, the legal community, and the State of Nevada which he served so well for more than 50 years. More importantly his passing is an irreplaceable loss to his loving family.”

Hicks leaves behind his wife, three children and 10 grandchildren, according to a statement from Du. “He was a pillar of the Reno community — a universally respected district attorney, partner in private practice and federal judge,” she said.

Judicial career

According to his online bio on the Nevada federal court district’s website, Hicks received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1965 and his law degree from the University of Colorado in 1968.

He embarked on his legal career in 1968 as a prosecutor in the Washoe County district attorney’s office in Reno. In 1974, he was elected Washoe County district attorney, serving in that role from 1974 through 1978. (Hicks’ son Christopher Hicks is the current Washoe County district attorney.)

Then, in 1979, he joined the prominent Nevada firm now known as McDonald Carano as a partner, working there until President George W. Bush appointed him to the federal court in 2001.

In 2013, Hicks assumed senior status, which is sometimes referred to as a “semi-retirement” for judges as it allows them to reduce their caseload.

“As a senior judge, he continued to take a substantial caseload along with a leadership role on court security issues,” Du said in a statement.

Hicks was also the president of the State Bar of Nevada from 1993 until 1994.

He also presided over some notable cases over the course of his career.

In 2013, Hicks sentenced power broker Harvey Whittemore to two years in prison for making illegal campaign contributions to Harry Reid.

In 2015, Hicks blocked the Bureau of Land Management from rounding up more than 300 wild horses in Northern Nevada, citing potential harm to the animals.

Hicks sentenced a man to 15 years in U.S. prison in 2017 for conspiring to plot terror strikes in his home country, India, while living in Northern Nevada.

Sen. Jacky Rosen posted about Hicks death on social media.

“I’m incredibly sad to hear of the tragic passing of Judge Larry Hicks,” she wrote in a post on X. “During his years of service, Judge Hicks demonstrated a commitment to the rule of law and the people of Nevada.

My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

‘Honorable in every way’

Sig Rogich, a senior adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said he had known Hicks for most of his life. The two attended the University of Nevada, Reno at the same time.

Hicks “proved to be exemplary” on the bench, Rogich said. Du called Hicks a “brilliant juror” and “mentor to everyone on the federal bench” who was “totally devoted to the rule of law.”

“Fair minded, he brought a sense of decorum and calm to his court,” Rogich wrote in an email. “And earned the title ‘honorable’ in every way… He certainly will not be forgotten and I’m just proud to have known him all the years.”

Rogich called Hicks’ death “so unfair and hard to comprehend.”

“Nevada lost a great citizen,” he said. “And many of us lost a good friend.”

In honor of Judge Hicks and his exemplary service to the state, the flags of the United States and the State of Nevada will be lowered to half-staff from sunrise until sunset on Friday, May 31.

“Donna and I join the Hicks family, Reno community, and our entire state in mourning the devastating loss of Judge Larry Hicks,” Gov. Joe Lombardo said. “Appointed in 2001, Judge Hicks faithfully served his fellow Nevadans for over two decades. Judge Hicks was known for his steadfast commitment to his family, deep respect for the law, and unmatched professional integrity. In his honor, I’ve lowered the flags to half-staff tomorrow from sunrise to sunset.”

Contact Estelle Atkinson at eatkinson@reviewjournal.com.

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