In 2017, Judge Mark Bailus was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval to serve in Department 18 of the District Court. He is a graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law and was admitted to the Nevada Bar in 1980. Prior to becoming a judge, Mr. Bailus was a partner at the law firm Bailus Cook & Kelesis, with a focus on civil and criminal litigation and appeals.
Vegas Legal Magazine: What did you do before becoming a judge?
Judge Bailus: I was an attorney for over 37 years and I am one of the relatively few sitting judges who has an extensive background in both civil and criminal law at the trial and appellate levels.
VLM: What is the most memorable case you tried as an attorney before taking the bench?
JB: My most memorable or significant case was not a trial but rather, a complex tort litigation which resulted in a multi-million-dollar settlement. I, along with my former partner Michael Cherry, were lead counsel for all of the personal injury plaintiffs (except for one) and all of the uninsured property damage plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation commonly known as the “PEPCON Explosion Litigation” resulting in a multi-million-dollar settlement for the plaintiffs. A courtroom battle involving dozens of insurance companies and over 50 law firms resulted in a $71 million 1992 settlement with contributions from multiple parties that were divided among insurance companies on subrogation claims as well as the victims and their families. This case was significant to me as, at the time, I was still a fairly young attorney and the defendants had retained many high-powered law firms to defend them. The defendants embarked on a strategy to attempt to overwhelm my clients by filing numerous dismissal and/or summary judgment motions against them to circumvent a trial. Unfortunately for the defendants, their strategy failed. I fought long and hard in defending against the onslaught of pretrial motions filed by the defendants and was successful in defeating the same. As a result, this case was settled with the plaintiffs being fairly compensated for their losses and/or injuries.
VLM: What made you decide to run for judge?
JB: I had been an attorney for over 37 years and it was a new challenge that I was uniquely qualified to undertake due to my many years of experience, knowledge and success as an attorney before the state and federal courts in Nevada in both civil and criminal law.
VLM: What does being a judge mean to you?
JB: Being a judge is an honor and privilege that I very much respect. It has allowed me to make a difference. As a judge, there is nothing that is going to come before me that I am not prepared to handle. I have endeavored to make rulings based on sound legal reasoning and to draft clear, thoughtful and thorough decisions.
VLM: What is your favorite and least favorite thing about being a judge?
JB: I would say my least favorite thing as a judge is having to run for office. I have always been a straight shooter and this doesn’t always play well in politics. However, I am not going to change as I think the public will appreciate someone who is forthright.
My favorite thing is the interaction between myself and the litigants who appear before me. I always try to be patient, courteous and respectful to all litigants and most of all, be a good listener. No matter what my rulings are, I think the litigants appreciate the courtesies I extend to them.
VLM: Describe a situation where you had to support a legal position that conflicted with your personal beliefs? Please tell us how you handled it.
JB: I view a judge’s role is to enforce the laws that have been enacted by the legislature. When I think the law should be changed, I can express that to the legislators and I would be willing to do so and state my reasons.
VLM: What’s your biggest pet peeve caused by attorneys that appear in your courtroom?
JB: I’m not sure this is really a pet peeve, but I am insistent that the attorneys who appear before me are prepared and are civil to each other.
VLM: What is your best piece of advice for litigants and/or attorneys?
JB: As a follow up to the preceding question, I think the best piece of advice I could give to the litigants and attorneys is to be civil to each other and not make personal attacks and further, to have complete candor with the Court.
VLM: What is your passion outside of law?
JB: While I enjoy doing things with my family, I really don’t have any hobbies. I enjoy reading. However, being a judge consumes most of my time as I am either at work or I am constantly reading books and cases related to the law to gain knowledge, so I can make informed decisions. I can’t remember the last time I read a book for pleasure.
VLM: What do you love most about Vegas?
JB: The thing I love most about Las Vegas is the people. I am a long-time resident of Las Vegas with my family first coming here in 1955 and I grew up here and am a graduate of UNLV. I have practiced law in Las Vegas since my admission to the bar in 1980. I returned to [Las Vegas] after graduating from Pepperdine University School of Law to begin my legal career and start my family. Practicing law in Las Vegas has been very rewarding to me professionally. Most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who have been a part of my life.
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