Three-term Nevada Supreme Court Justice Bill Maupin — appointed to the post in 1992, re-elected in 1996 and 2002 — announced Tuesday he would not seek another term.
“The court has accomplished what I hoped it would accomplish when I first undertook to be a member of the court,” the 61-year-old former trial lawyer and former District Court judge said in a prepared statement.
Justice Maupin cited two key accomplishments. While serving as chief justice, he was instrumental in opening the court to indigent defendants, examining attorney caseloads and putting into place a program that assured such defendants adequate legal representation.
The court was also successful during his tenure in reducing its backlog of cases, from 2,500 to 1,400, the retiring justice said.
Justice Maupin did not mention it, but he was also a reliable friend of openness in government — of access for the press and public to bureaucratic workings which the participants would just as soon keep sealed from prying eyes.
In a state where the sealing of cases by lower-court judges for reasons varying from whimsy to personal favoritism has verged on the scandalous, Justice Maupin’s instinct and initiatives toward openness in the courts themselves were also welcome.
Though history will remember him as a member of the court that decided the Guinn v. Legislature case, it’s also to his credit that he was the lone dissenter in that politicized and legally indefensible ruling, in which the majority allowed the Legislature to ignore a constitutional supermajority requirement to raise taxes.
Justice Maupin has not ruled out either returning to the practice of law, or seeking another public office. Nevadans would doubtless welcome him in either role.
Nevada has suffered some sad exceptions over the past decade to the rule that a state’s judges should be among its wisest, most competent, most ethical and respected citizens.
But Bill Maupin has been all those things. He gave us hope in trying times for the integrity of our judiciary. His example on the court sets a high standard; he will be missed.