Lunch with a legend: Honorable Judge Lloyd D. George
It is difficult to overstate the stature of Judge Lloyd D. George in the Las Vegas legal community.
For starters, the courthouse pictured, on Las Vegas Boulevard, is named the “Lloyd. D. George Federal Courthouse”. And it’s where you’ll still find him working long hard days, every day.
Judge George is wise and kind; he is committed to his church, his country, his community, and his family, to a degree that few can claim.
Judge George is a fairly slight, soft spoken man, yet he exudes gravitas. If you met him on the street, in the mall, at a movie, you would never presume the iconic position he enjoys. His humility causes him not to wear it on his sleeve.
I recently had the privilege to lunch with Judge George (as I have before) along with a colleague and close friend, the former Chief of the Criminal Division, First Assistant United States Attorney and Acing/Interim United States Attorney for the District of Nevada – Howard J. Zlotnick.
You could spend hours on Google researching Judge George’s accomplishments on behalf of justice – not just in Nevada, but across the world – if you are so inclined. The above summary is insufficient to do Judge George justice; take my word of it, he is all any citizen could want in a Federal Judge.
I recently posted a column regarding the kidnapping trial wherein Steve Wynn’s daughter was the victim. Judge George presided over the case as trial judge. His comments, to the late James E. Rogers, another Las Vegas giant, regarding that trial, from a Channel 3 broadcast about a year ago appear below.
It was a memorable case. In fact, more than a year ago, when I first retired, I happened upon that interview. In it, Judge George was asked about the most interesting of the hundreds – or thousands – of witnesses he had a seen in his long career. His answer: Steve Wynn. I was lead counsel on this case. Preparing Wynn was, as they say, a long, strange trip.
(My co-counsel in that trial was Jay Angelo, one of the most talented AUSAs in the history of Nevada. After much lobbying on his part, I, as lead counsel, agreed to bring Jay onto the case, and to let Jay take Kevyn, the actual victim of the crime, as his witness. This was an issue that the 9th Circuit would later wrestle with quite adversarially – who in fact was the victim? Steve Wynn? The Mirage? Or Kevyn, the kidnapped daughter? A very interesting story in itself which I will no doubt detail at a alter date.)
Well, I have to confess that during lunch the good judge expanded his answer to include both father and daughter as the best witnesses he’d observed. But for a while, I could laud over Jay that the witness I had prepped was the All Time # 1.
We jawboned about just about everything for several hours – the history of Vegas since his arrival in 1933; his experience as a young lifeguard at the old Flamingo, and his brushes with Frank Sinatra and nearly any old Vegas celeb you could think of; the lawyers who shaped the local justice system; and various players, known and unknown to me, who had influenced a small town which became a city of 2 million.
Judge George should write a book. The knowledge he possesses needs to be preserved for future generations. At 85, although he is almost as spry as I can imagine he was as a lifeguard, so he has plenty of time to get on it.
Notwithstanding his amazing life, he spent much of the time asking about us. Our families, our health, our plans, the comparative state of affairs in our “new” Districts – Northern California and Eastern Virginia respectively – polar opposites.
We also laughed about my first trial before him. It was a pretty straight forward gun case. The attorney – I won’t mention his name, he can come forward if he wants, guaranteed an acquittal. He said he could not tell me why until after his victory, but he was as confident as Joe Namath was in 1969 guaranteeing a victory over the favored Colts in Super Bowl III. I recalled how after the jury was charged and dismissed to deliberate, I had just arrived back at my office only to be told to get back to court, there was a verdict.
We laughed over the announcement from the judge’s courtroom deputy, dear Lynn Kensington (from a tiny Nevada place called Bunkerville) that whatever the result, this was a record: a 4 minute verdict. Well, it turned out to be guilty. The lawyer, a really nice guy, then disclosed a misguided legal theory which he felt was foolproof. It wasn’t.
I could go on and on, but Judge George (or “LDG” as we always called him) was and remains a class act, a pillar of Las Vegas, a generous and old friend, if I may call him that. His humble nature and proficiency running his courtroom, for decades, as well as his vast service in so many other capacities, makes me feel fortunate to have appeared before him as a a legal representative of the United States.