Carson District Judge Fondi calls it quits

Carson City District Judge Mike Fondi, who has served longer on the bench than all but two of Nevada's 57 district judges, Thursday announced his retirement from the bench.

Fondi said his final day on the job will be Aug. 11.

"I just think it's time," said Fondi. "You come to the point where, if you're working hard at the job, sometimes it starts to get to you.

"It's hard not to take some of it home," he said.

The announcement ends months of rumors which, until recently, he has denied.

Fondi, 63, said he doesn't have specific plans for his future yet.

"I've been doing this 23 years," he said. "I've done about everything there is to do judicially from a trial judge perspective. I think I need to do some other things while I'm young enough to still enjoy it."

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

Before becoming a judge, 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 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. So 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 is third in seniority among active judges to Merlyn Hoyt of White Pine County and Peter Breen in Washoe. His resignation moves Mike Griffin, the other Carson City-Storey County District judge, into third on the seniority list.

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, so that 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 was instrumental in changing that law to relieve the pressure on Carson courts.

He said he with others helped develop new arbitration rules in Carson City as well as mediation for child custody cases and other innovations he says "helped stave off the need for a third department."

He also chaired the Supreme Court study of how Nevada handles death penalty cases. That commission report resulted in major changes in how those cases are conducted.

"The idea was that if they are done correctly in the first place, you either have a conviction that will hold up or you don't," he said.

Fondi said that and other changes he has worked on, "I hope I have made the process more efficient."

Fondi said once retired, he may sit occasionally as a senior judge when needed or do some arbitration work.

He formally notified Gov. Kenny Guinn as well as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Bob Rose that he will leave office in August saying that gives Guinn ample time to appoint his successor.

When rumors Fondi was considering retirement surfaced earlier this year, two names were mentioned as being interested in the job. District Attorney Noel Waters has said in the past he would be interested. And Carson City lawyer Todd Russell has expressed an interest, although he said in the past speculation was premature until Fondi made a decision.

A judicial selection committee will take applications and nominations for those interested in the job. That panel will narrow the list to three finalists. The governor will appoint Fondi's replacement from that list.

Normally, the appointee must run at the next scheduled general election, but since filing for the 2000 elections has already closed Fondi's replacement won't have to face voters until 2002.


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