Fondi retires as district judge

Carson City lost a 23-year veteran district judge Friday as Michael Fondi retired his gavel and stepped down from the bench.

Though the last week was spent finishing cases, signing paperwork and saying goodbye to his staff and colleagues, life outside of the courtroom is still an unknown.

"I don't think the full realization has set in," he said in an interview Thursday. "Theoretically it ends at 5 o'clock Friday and then I cannot sign any more papers."

Fondi's replacement has yet to be determined. Out of seven candidates who applied for the governor-appointed post, the Nevada Supreme Court's Commission on Judicial Selection whittled the list down to three Thursday.

Carson City District Attorney Noel Waters, former federal prosecutor Bill Maddox and Washoe County Deputy District Attorney James Shewan are contending for Fondi's spot. Gov. Kenny Guinn's decision will likely be announced in the next couple weeks.

Fondi's co-workers sent him off with a luncheon at the Carson City Courthouse on Friday. He said his working experience has been highlighted by a professional staff that knows the inner workings of the judicial system.

"I think whoever is chosen, they would be well-served to stay with the people who have worked with me," he said.

Many of the district court employees - including court reporters - work directly for Fondi in Department 2 and his counterpart Judge Michael Griffin in Department 1.

As for life after being district judge, at the age of 63, Fondi said he does not know exactly what he will do, but he is not ready to completely stop working.

"I'm not just going to stop working, per se," he said. "I've got a lot of things to do. I'm not the 'sleep in' type of guy."

Fondi's last appearance in the courtroom was Tuesday. He announced his retirement June 1.

Altogether he has spent 37 years in public service. He was appointed to the Carson District Court on July 1,1977, by then-Gov. Mike O'Callaghan.

Before his appointment, Fondi served as Carson district attorney for six years and chief deputy district attorney for four years before that. He began his public service as a deputy attorney general.

He has said because he has been in public service so long, his pay is at the maximum a judge can receive, about $122,000 a year. The state will actually save about $50,000 in salary on the two years remaining in his term since his replacement will start at the base judicial pay rate of $100,000.

Fondi has handled some of the state's biggest cases in his years on the bench.

Until just a few years ago, the Carson City courts handled all appeals by prison inmates. The list includes many of those on Nevada's death row, including Priscilla Ford, Kenneth McKague and the men accused of killing Reno police officer James Hoff.

Fondi has had the third longest tenure of Nevada's 57 judges, a rank now held by Griffin.


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