Present and former district attorney eying judgeship

Several names are being tossed about as potential replacements for Judge Michael Fondi following his announcement Thursday that he will be stepping down as first judicial district judge.

Carson City District Attorney Noel Waters and his predecessor Bill Maddox both plan to throw their names in the hat for the governor-appointed position. Both have served as district attorney, with Maddox later serving as U.S. Attorney, followed by private practice.

Because Fondi is retiring from the judgeship after the deadline for the 2000 election, the pool of applicants is narrowed by the state Judicial Selection Commission. The commission, which notifies bar members statewide of the opening, sends the top three applicants' names to Governor Kenny Guinn.

Fondi - ending a 23-year career as judge - is the only judge who has served in the district's Department II. The position was created in 1977. His retirement date is Aug. 11.

In an election process, district judge candidates compete for votes and must live in the district, which comprises Carson City and Storey counties. As an appointment, the position is open to all qualified applicants statewide.

Once appointed, the new judge must move to the district to run for re-election in 2002.

Waters said 15 years as district attorney, and thousands of district court cases, have taught him the nuances of the job.

"I think I have the tools, background and experience," he said. "As an appointed position, I realize the matter is out of my hands."

Both candidates, registered Republicans, have said their affiliation isn't likely to affect the governor's choice.

"I understand the governor works in a political atmosphere and serves in a political office, but he has that responsibility to serve the people's best interest," Waters said. "I expect the governor to put qualifications first and foremost."

Waters got his start in District Judge Michael Griffin's courtroom where he was a clerk. He left the post early to serve as a deputy district attorney under Bill Maddox. When Maddox left the post to serve as a Reagan-appointed U.S. Attorney, Waters was appointed by the board of supervisors and has since been re-elected four times, twice unopposed.

Like Waters, Maddox started his career in law in Carson City.

After serving in the infantry in Vietnam, he finished college at Texas A & M and went to law school at McGeorge. He started as a deputy district attorney in Carson City in 1976 and then was appointed district attorney three years later. He served at that post until 1985 when he went to the federal position.

Since 1989 Maddox has managed a private practice in Carson City, interrupted only by an unsuccessful bid in 1994 to unseat Frankie Sue Del Papa as state Attorney General.

"I have 50 years perspective in Carson City," Maddox said. "I moved here when I was 12, but I've lived all over the state.

"I like being an advocate. I have enough experience as a lawyer (23 years), and I think I'm ready."

Lawyers Tim Terry and Ernie Adler have also expressed interest in the position.


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