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Longtime federal judge Larry Hicks in Nevada hit and killed by a vehicle near courthouse in Reno

U.S. Federal Court Judge Larry Hicks listens during a news conference at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse Friday, June 6, 2008, in Las Vegas. Hicks, a federal judge in Nevada for more than 20 years, died after being struck by a vehicle on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, near the courthouse in Reno, authorities and his family said. He was 80. (Gary Thompson/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Larry Hicks, a federal judge in Nevada for more than 20 years who presided over cases ranging from U.S. environmental disputes to political corruption trials, died after being struck by a vehicle at an intersection near the federal courthouse in Reno, authorities and his family said. He was 80.

Hicks was pronounced dead at a hospital after the crash Wednesday afternoon. Reno police said the driver cooperated with authorities and impairment didn’t appear to be a factor.

Hicks was the father of current Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks, whose office released a statement on behalf of the Hicks family.

“Judge Larry Hicks was a deeply admired lawyer and judge, a devoted friend, mentor, and a committed servant to the administration of justice,” the statement said. “To us, he was first and foremost, a man who put nothing before family. He was a hero in all manners, a loving husband of nearly 59 years, a doting dad, an adoring Papa, and brother."

Hicks’ caseload over two decades sampled all slices of Nevada life, from conflicts over water rights, wild horses and gold mines to crooked politicians, casino workers, Las Vegas entertainers and championship boxers.

He was nominated to the U.S. District Court for Nevada in 2001 by Republican President George W. Bush and was sworn in shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. He continued to hear cases after assuming senior judge status in 2012.

“He was a pillar of the Reno community — a universally respected District Attorney, partner in private practice, and federal judge,” the federal court said in a statement Thursday. ”He was a brilliant jurist who personified honesty, wisdom, courtesy, and unimpeachable integrity."

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo said the entire state was in mourning over the death of the man with “unmatched professional integrity.” Lombardo said in a statement all flags would be lowered to half-staff until sunset Friday.

In one of his highest-profile trials, Hicks sentenced Nevada lobbyist and political power broker Harvey Whittemore to prison for two years in 2013 for making illegal contributions to Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's campaign in 2007.

Sitting in Las Vegas instead of his usual Reno courtroom, Hicks sentenced three former Clark County commissioners to federal prison in 2006 after a sensational trial in a federal political corruption case, dubbed “Operation G-sting,” that stemmed from bribes paid to elected officials by a strip club owner.

Hicks heard dozens of conservationist challenges of federal land management decisions in Nevada, where U.S. government agencies control about four-fifths of the land. He often deferred to U.S. Bureau of Land Management expertise in approval of controversial mining projects and wild horse roundups, but not always.

Last year, he sided with environmentalists and adopted a U.S. appellate court's strict interpretation of a 150-year-old mining law that blocked a metals mine in Nevada. In 2015, he handed horse advocates a rare victory when he temporarily blocked a federal roundup of hundreds of mustangs.

Among celebrity cases, Hicks ordered rock star Rod Stewart to pay a Las Vegas casino more than $3 million in 2006 for not returning money he was paid before he canceled a concert in 2000. In 2012, he ordered boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. to pay about $114,000 to rival fighter Manny Pacquiao’s lawyers in a defamation case.

Perhaps more than any other, the Whittemore case offered both a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sometimes cozy political and business relationships in a western state like Nevada and the sort of candor and calm demeanor on the bench that won him respect from prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.

He put the trial on hold at one point, telling lawyers on both sides that he was “conditionally recusing” himself for at least a week so they could decide whether they thought he should continue, in light of a variety of past business and family relationships he disclosed during a 40-minute hearing.

Hicks said he had known Whittemore casually probably more than 20 years. The judge said that rather than put any of the lawyers in the “awkward” position of having to make a motion to toss Hicks off the case, his recusal would become permanent if his clerk didn't receive confidential letters from each party indicating they wanted to waive the judge’s recusal. Both sides did, and praised Hicks' handling of the matter.

Hicks was born in Evanston, Illinois; graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Colorado School of Law; and became a prosecutor in Reno in 1968. He was elected as Washoe County district attorney in 1975 and served until 1979, when he joined a prominent Nevada law firm, according to the State Bar of Nevada. He was awarded the association’s Presidential Award in 2020.


An earlier version was corrected to show that Hicks assumed senior status in 2012, not 2013, and was elected Washoe County district attorney in 1975 and served until 1979, instead of serving from 1974-78.


Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Springs, Maryland, contributed to this report.

Scott Sonner, The Associated Press

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