U.S. attorney position likely will see new face, but it won’t be a Reid

Choosing a new U.S. attorney for Nevada hasn’t made it to the top of President-elect Barack Obama’s to-do list, but that doesn’t mean Nevadans aren’t already thinking about it.

Four potential candidates — the sons of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid — have taken themselves out of the running, which certainly opens the pool of prospects. As the Nevada congressional delegation’s ranking Democrat, the Senate majority leader will make the recommendations.

Leif, Key and Josh Reid all told me this week they weren’t interested. Rory Reid, who is eyeing the governor’s job in 2010, also has no interest in becoming Nevada’s U.S. attorney.

Leif Reid is a former federal prosecutor, but after leaving Lionel Sawyer & Collins, he took a job with the law firm of Lewis and Roca in Reno. “Right now, at this point in my life, no,” he said. He feels an obligation to stick with it, despite his interest earlier in a federal judgeship. U.S. Sen. John Ensign nominated him for a judgeship in 2003, but the Bush administration didn’t go along with the idea.

Key Reid is general counsel for the Greenspun Corp., and likes it, so his response was direct: “Not me.”

Josh Reid began working for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in May and his focus is environment, land use and state and local government affairs. “Maybe in another four years,” he said.

Other leading Democrats already taking themselves out of the running (and who returned my calls) included District Judge Stewart Bell, former federal prosecutor Stan Hunterton, and defense attorneys Bill Terry and Richard Wright.

One candidate I’m told would be a superb choice and who is interested is Las Vegas attorney Tom Beatty.

He was one of two finalists when Ensign nominated Reno Republican Dan Bogden. The fact that a Democrat became a finalist speaks well of Beatty’s qualifications. He has a broad range of experience, including four years as a deputy district attorney. He’s interested, though he made it clear he thought my call was premature.

U.S. Attorney Greg Brower, a Republican who has held the job for less than a year, said, “It would be my intention to stay on if the new president asks me to.”

That seems unlikely.

While focusing on the federal prosecutor’s job in Nevada, I learned that there could be a slew of opportunities starting in 2011 for the even more prestigious job of a federal judge. And those are lifetime jobs, not just four-year jobs.

Starting in 2011 and through the middle of 2014, six out of seven federal judges in Nevada become eligible to take senior status. That means they can handle a caseload of anywhere from 100 percent to 25 percent, and a full-time judge can be appointed.

Chief U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt said he’ll take senior status when he’s eligible in April 2011 so that another judge can be appointed to help handle the workload. U.S. District Judge Philip Pro also plans to go on senior status when he’s eligible in December 2011. Others who will be eligible include Kent Dawson, Larry Hicks, Jim Mahan and Clive Jones. Only Brian Sandoval in Reno is too young to be eligible soon.

“From April 2011 to the middle of 2014, there’s a huge set of potential vacancies,” Pro said.

“And we don’t have any place to put them,” Hunt said.

The Lloyd George Federal Courthouse was designed to add two new courtrooms and chambers, not six more, so Hunt is already worried about that problem.

Qualifying for senior status is determined by the “rule of 80.” Once judges hit 65, if their age and years of service as a District Court judge totals 80, they are eligible. But it’s not mandatory.

Wonder whether some attorneys still in their 50s who reject the idea of the U.S. attorney’s job are keeping their eyes on a federal judgeship?

Should be interesting to see whether Sen. Reid shares these federal appointments with Ensign, as Ensign did with him, as part of their pledge to work together for the benefit of the state. If any Republicans get the senatorial nod from Reid for judgeships, I guess their unusual understanding for appointments will continue.

I’ll be holding my breath.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

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