Lawyers practicing in the federal courts of Nevada gathered earlier this month in Reno to honor one of the state's leading jurists, the Honorable Procter R. Hug, Jr., chief judge emeritus of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The tribute to Judge Hug, currently in his 35th year of service on the federal bench, was the highlight of Nevada Federal Bar Association's annual dinner. More than 175 people attended the April 5 event, which featured remarks by Ninth Circuit Judge Mary M. Schroeder of Phoenix, a close friend and colleague who succeeded Judge Hug as chief judge of the nation's busiest appellate court.
Judge Hug, 81, is a lifelong Reno resident who attended public schools in nearby Sparks. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Nevada in 1953, and his LL.B. from Stanford Law School in 1958. After practicing law in Reno for almost 20 years, he was nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter. He was confirmed by the Senate and received his judicial commission on September 15, 1977.
Judge Hug currently ranks fourth among his colleagues in years of service. He has sat on more than 7,000 appellate panels and authored 647 opinions. In addition to his contributions to Ninth Circuit jurisprudence, Judge Hug served as chief judge of the circuit from 1996 to 2000. Under his leadership, the court fended off a serious effort by some members of Congress to split up the circuit. He also promoted efforts to educate the public about the courts, advocated for greater use of cameras in the courtroom, and encouraged judges to think about health and wellness issues.
In her remarks, Judge Schroeder, who came onto the court two years after Judge Hug, noted that neither of them would have become chief judge had not their colleague, Judge Anthony M. Kennedy,
been elevated to the Supreme Court in 1988. His departure shuffled the order of succession, which is based on age and years of service, putting them in line to assume the leadership post.
They collaborated from the start, Judge Schroeder said, working closely together as the court's representatives in planning the renovation and restoration of the circuit's headquarters building in San Francisco, which was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The partnership continued as current and future chief judges.
"Procter insisted that he and I should plan together for the future. We started to develop programs to implement during his chief judgeship and then developed during mine," Judge Schroeder remarked.
"Proc's legacy, to the judiciary and to the country, is huge. I am proud to have him as my colleague and friend," she said.
Judge Hug took semi-retired senior status in 2002, but continued to hear cases and be involved in circuit governance for many years. He is currently the senior circuit judge representative to the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, the governing body for federal courts in the western states.
In addition to his judicial experience, Judge Hug has served as deputy attorney general for the state of Nevada, as general counsel to the University of Nevada system, and as a member and chair of the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada.
Judge Hug and his wife, Barbara, still live in Reno. They have three children and eight grandchildren.