Longtime Nevadan brings decades of experience as lawyer, business owner and judge to campaign.
The Honorable Richard Scotti, former District Judge, was known as the “Constitution Judge.” He is running now for the position of Nevada Secretary of State. Scotti brings to the race his 30 years experience as a business lawyer, 10 years as a business owner, and 6 years as a District Judge. He started his career after graduating with high honors from the University of Southern California with degrees in political science and international relations, and graduating with high honors from Hastings College of the law in 1988.
“With my decades of experience, combined with my passion to protect election integrity, to promote economic freedom, and to vigorously defend Constitutional values, I am confident I am eminently qualified to serve as Nevada’s next Secretary of State,” Scotti said. “I intend to do my utmost to serve the people of our state in this vital role.”
Scotti, former District Court Judge for Department 2 of the Eighth Judicial District Court, has resided with his wife and two children in Nevada for more than 30 years. He has been a highly distinguished member of the state’s legal community since 1992. The national rating service Martindale-Hubbell has awarded Scotti “preeminent” status — the highest possible rating in legal ability and ethical standards. The American Bar Foundation has recognized Scotti as being in the top 1% of legal professionals.
Prior to winning his election in 2014 as District Judge for a six-year term, Scotti had been a part owner of a successful law firm practicing complex business, commercial, real estate, and construction litigation, and administrative law. He protected the people of Nevada by serving as a prosecutor, then general counsel, then administrative law judge for the Nevada State Contractors Board. He worked as a writer and editor for the “Ask-A-Lawyer” column in the Las Vegas Review Journal – providing common sense legal advice. Further, he represented the international contractor who built the Venetian Hotel Casino, and he was one of the lead attorneys on one of the longest civil jury trials in the history of Nevada.
The Nevada Supreme Court appointed Scotti to serve as a Settlement Judge for 10 years, where he helped reduce the appellate caseload; and as a Foreclosure Mediator during the Great Recession, where he helped Nevada citizens recover from the housing crisis.
The lawyers in Nevada elected Scotti to two terms as a Governor of the State Bar of Nevada beginning in 2010, where he managed all aspects of the legal profession. In that capacity, Scotti also served as a liaison to the State Bar Committees on Publications; Audit; Personnel; Construction; and Energy, Utilities and Communications. As Bar Governor he promoted the expansion of the Veterans Treatment Court.
Scotti has been passionate his entire career about improving the level of honesty and ethics in the legal profession. He led the way in marketing the Lawyer’s Pledge of Professionalism back in 1993. He volunteered his time as Regional Chair of the State Bar Fee Dispute Committee, helping to promote transparency and accountability in attorney billing. Scotti is especially proud of his work as Chairman of the State Civility Committee, where he worked with Attorney General Adam Laxalt in developing the new oath of professionalism for new attorneys.
As a District Judge, Scotti tirelessly fought for the constitutional rights of all Nevadans. He protected the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s First Amendment rights to prompt access to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department records of the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting. He protected the right to privacy of the family of the off-duty officer killed at the same mass shooting – and earned the endorsement of nearly 100 law enforcement agencies within the State.
In the 2016 general election, Scotti was appointed to a special Judicial Election Team to handle emergency petitions. During the culmination of his judicial term, Scotti upheld the fundamental doctrine of separation of powers in a ruling that reminded the Nevada Legislature that one cannot be both a lawmaker and law enforcer. He always carries a pocket Constitution and is not shy about reminding people that its principles still apply today.
For more on Judge (fmr.) Richard Scotti, see www.richardscotti.com, call 702-546-9011, or write to Richard@RichardScotti.com
VLM: What do you miss most about being a District Judge?
RS: I will miss participating in the process of making sure that everybody who comes into Court is treated fairly; with impartiality; with utmost due process; and with utmost attention as if each matter is the most important at that moment – because it is. In other words, making sure that everybody who walks away, whether they win or lose, feels and believes that they got a fair shake.
Here’s an example why that job was so rewarding. For a while I was the sole appellate judge for misdemeanor appeals. There was a gentleman who appealed his assault conviction to me, and I very carefully listened to his arguments, giving him all the time he wanted to be heard, and asking questions to clarify his positions – but ultimately affirming the conviction. Yet, on his way out, and this is a true story, he said, “Judge, I’m not happy that I lost, but you are the first one to actually listen and care what I had to say; thank-you.”
VLM: Is there anything that you don’t regret leaving behind as a Judge?
RS: I am still haunted by the terrible evil that I had to face often. The most emotional cases involved human sex traffickers, and child abusers. At the same time, I internally grieved over those who were caught up in the system due to drug or alcohol addiction diseases. And then there were some who were so poor they had to resort to theft or drug dealing just to survive.
There is one case that I have shared with others, and might seem like a small matter, but it still affects me. I had placed this gentleman on probation for spanking his two kids so hard it left welts. He was directed that he could not be home alone with his kids, so generally he had his wife watch the kids while he searched daily for odd jobs. He apparently had no friends or family in town. One day the Probation Officer found him home alone with his kids; he was arrested, brought in, and on the verge of having his probation revoked. He pleaded for help, and explained that his wife was fortunate to get a hotel cleaning job for the day, and left him home alone with the kids so she could go make 50 bucks. He was sobbing, saying he was doing his best to be a good father, and that his kids were so hungry, and all he had left in the house was one almost empty box of cereal.
Everybody deserves a second chance when they make a mistake, especially when they are fighting for their family. So he was placed back on probation, but there was nothing I could do to help his plight. I know many say that you don’t get into that situation if you have a good work ethic. But most of us don’t appreciate how hard it is for someone to dig themselves out of a hole like this, even with best intentions.
I guess what I am saying, as a Judge, almost everyday I had to face horrific evil, and also abject misery. Very emotional cases, yes. Nevertheless, I am glad the people gave me the opportunity to handle them, because I know I handled each of them with the right balance of punishment and compassion
VLM: What has been the hardest part in transitioning from Judge back to Lawyer?
RS: As a Judge I had to carefully apply the law to a certain set of facts, and reach the decision that I thought was proper. In other words, I determined right and wrong. But as a lawyer my role is to be the strongest advocate for my client. There is a natural tendency to look at my client’s position, and my opponent’s position, and try to figure out what is the most legally correct resolution. That’s the wrong approach. I can’t be the mediator for my client’s own case. I realized this issue very quickly, and now represent my client’s zealously – even though I can see what the Judge will probably end up doing.
VLM: Is there any special insight into the Judicial System that you can share that may not be generally known in the legal community?
RS: There is too much pressure on the Judges NOT to take matters under advisement. The Chief Judge and the Court administration in general keep records on the number of matters that a Judge takes under advisement, and the average time that matters are taken under advisement. I understand that we must make sure that Judges are working hard. We do not want Judges that delay in decision-making because they don’t want to work. But that is not the real problem. Our Judges generally work very hard. In fact, the easier thing for a Judge to do is to make a decision from the bench, rather than taking extra time to analyze a matter in more depth after hearing oral argument.
In the interests of judicial economy, most Judges work with their law clerks to reach private tentative decisions before taking the bench. In hearing they get more information from attorney argument and answers to the Judge’s questions. Certainly, they are getting new perspectives on the facts and law. It is not always possible to immediately assimilate this new material. Given institutional pressure, several Judges have expressed that they feel pressured to just stick with their tentative ruling, even if they feel justice could have benefitted by more time.
The accuracy of decisions would be best improved if the Judge were given more flexibility to take matters under advisement. In my experience, the Judges that work the hardest are those Judges that take more matters under advisement.
The proper measure of a Judges work ethic is not whether they take matters under advisement, or how many matters they take under advisement, but how long it takes to resolve those under-advisement matters.
VLM: Do you have any aspirations to return to the Bench?
RS: Serving as a District Judge was one of the most emotionally rewarding jobs that I could imagine for myself. As I would walk up the Courthouse steps every morning, I was so proud to be one of many to improve justice. Recognizing the heavy burden that applied, I would look up and ask God: please give me the courage to do the rights thing; please let me be a better listener today; please let help me understand the law better; please let me try harder to protect due process; and please God, help me to make the correct decisions. Up to now, this was the best job in the world to me. I want to continue to serve the public in whatever is the best way I can. And that may mean returning to the bench someday.
VLM: Every year tens of thousands of people are called to possibly serve as jurors; and they all have lives to attend to; but many others just don’t want to be inconvenienced, and say whatever they think will help them get away. How do you feel about that?
RS: For over 2500 years, people have been fighting for the right to be judged by their peers – the Athenians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Vikings, Medieval England, the American Colonists, etc. In the early 1700’s, juries were using their power to protect the colonists from oppressive British laws. Indeed, one of the grounds for the American Revolution was the British retraction of the right to jury trials. The fight ultimately developed into the American Jury system – the best system in the world.
Our Veterans, who fight for America’s constitutional republic, are indeed fighting for the American Jury System. My Dad was one such Veteran. He was a combat marine who volunteered to serve two tours in Vietnam, where he was severely injured, and received the Purple Heart; and he ultimately died from Leukemia from chemical contamination in the war.
From my Dad I learned respect for America, the Constitution, the Flag, Individual Liberty, love of God and family and, or course, respect for the law, due process, and the right to jury trial
People called to serve as jurors must be thankful to those who sacrificed their lives, or risked their lives, to protect American values, including the right to jury trial. The jury trial is the best check against out-of-control government, against injustice, and against civil wrongs.
VLM: Why did you decide to run for Nevada Secretary of State?
RS: This is a very critical point in time in our Country’s history because half of our Country believes that our election system is broken. It is in many respects. Since the Nevada Secretary of State is the Chief Election Officer of the State, I can, and want to be, at the forefront in rebuilding confidence.
Our Constitutional Republic is founded on the principle of consent of the governed. We give our consent by voting. Thus the United States and Nevada Supreme Courts have recognized that voting is a fundamental right. We must zealously protect that right.
My mission is to achieve an election process that is fair and transparent. That means every person who casts a ballot is legally eligible to do vote; that every vote is counted in a reliable manner; and that the entire process is open to public observation.
We also must rebuild our economy. Government shut-downs to combat the Covid disease has destroyed so many lives and so many small and start-up business, hindered innovation and growth, and disrupted our economic balance. The Secretary of State can help significantly through the exercise of all its business functions. With 30 years experience as a business lawyer, 10 years as a business owner, and 6 years as a District Judge, you can rely on me to move us in the right direction quickly. I am the 30-10-6 candidate.
VLM: Most people probably have no idea what the Nevada Secretary of State does. Tell us your view on the most important duties of that office.
RS: The Nevada Secretary of State supervises three main parts of government: elections; business; and criminal justice. As a 30-year lawyer, 10-year business owner, and 6-year Judge, I am the only candidate with the experience to handle all duties.
As Chief Election Officer, the Secretary of State is responsible for the execution, interpretation, and enforcement of federal and state election and campaign finance laws.
In the business field, the Secretary of State enforces Nevada securities laws, including any business investments contracts, to protect consumers from fraudulent and unscrupulous activities, and promote a healthy business environment for firms and individuals. The Secretary of State manages criminal investigators and lawyers to compel compliance with State business laws. The Secretary of State supervises and educates the public on the formation and licensing of businesses, as well as education on the available government assistance programs – thus helping start-up businesses succeed, and established business grow. The Secretary of State sits as a critical member of the Board of Economic Development, and Board of Examiners.
In the criminal justice field, The Nevada Secretary of State works with the Governor and Attorney General on the 3-member panel managing all aspects of the state prison system. As a former Judge with an extensive criminal docket, I am well-prepared to take on these responsibilities.
VLM: What makes you qualified to serve as Secretary of State?
RS: The Secretary of State is primarily a legal position. More than any other Executive Officer, including the Attorney General, the Secretary of State enforces the laws of Nevada. That’s my specialty. I tell everybody that I am the 30 – 10 – 6 candidate. As I said, that means I have 30 years experience as a business lawyer, 10 years experience as a law-business owner; and 6 years experience as a District Judge.
Over a 30 year period, I have managed teams finding solutions to problems involving elections, business, and prisons – all parts of the Secretary of State Office. For example, I managed teams of experts, investigators, and witnesses as one of the primary lawyers on the longest civil jury trial in the history of Nevada. My peers in the legal field elected me twice as a Governor of the State Bar, supervising the entire legal community and regulating attorney conduct As Precinct Director and Chairman of the Clark County Republican Party I managed a team of almost 1000 Precinct Captains to help insure fair elections. I managed a team of 40 employees in my successful law business. And as District Judge, I managed an extensive criminal docket.
This Office needs a lawyer to understand and enforce the laws in an efficient manner that meets the public’s needs.
VLM: Is your family supportive of your running for Secretary of State?
RS: Absolutely! Every step of my life and career I have been so fortunate to have the love and guidance and encouragement from my family. We are a team. My children grew up here in Nevada; went to school here; went to church here; held jobs here. They know that Nevada needs our help now, and that I have the passion to do this.
VLM: “Election Integrity” seems to be the slogan that you and your opponents are using. What does this term mean to you?
RS: Election integrity means a system where every legal vote counts; and where it is easy to vote but hard to cheat, and hard to make mistakes.
Election integrity means for our Country to respect the rights of its citizens to vote. Throughout our Country’s great history, we have continued to recognize the need for greater inclusiveness in elections. We eliminated poll taxes; eliminated literacy requirements; expanded the right to vote to American Indians; extended the vote to African Americans; extended voting rights to women; lowered the voting age; then made voting more accessible to seniors and handicapped.
While expanding voting rights, we have been lagging in the areas security. Our elections are vulnerable to unscrupulous people voting if they are not citizens; or impersonating someone else to vote; or voting if they are not registered; or voting twice; or voting if they are from out of state. Our technology has been lagging, leading to unreliability in vote casting, vote tabulating, and signature verification machines. Election integrity means solving these problems.
I use the term – not to cast blame – but to find solutions to the problems.
VLM: On the Republican side of the race, you are the only former judge, and the only attorney. Why should that matter?
RS: Everything the Secretary of State does involves the interpretation, and enforcement of the law. The people of Nevada need a person who can step into the position and be able to immediately draft the regulations needed to protect our election. They need a Secretary of State who knows what lawsuits may be needed to protect our fundamental voting rights. They need a person who can lead a team of investigators and lawyers to enforce our business license laws, and securities laws to best protect consumers, investors, brokers, and agents. A lawyer and judge will bring order to the Covid-chaos through which we have all suffered. The people need a lawyer and Judge who understands the due process rights that belong in our criminal justice system, and the management of our prisons to keep us safe. I have all of the experience needed to do these things.
VLM: You are a Republican in a so-called “Blue State.” How can you win?
RS: We all want the same thing . . . we want elections where it is easy to vote, but hard to cheat or make mistakes; we want economic growth that helps all of us; and we want to be safe and secure in our schools, workplaces and homes. And we all want to protect the Constitutional values that have made our Country a model of achievement around the world. As long as I can effectively communicate these shared goals, and my experience to get this done, I will earn the votes of the people.
VLM: There is so much dissension over the 2020 elections, and the partisanship is growing. Can you close the divide?
RS: We can, and must, together close the huge divide separating us. We can make it easier to vote, while at the same time eliminating the vulnerabilities in our elections.
VLM: Is there anything else you would like to say to the legal community, and to the readers of Vegas Legal?
RS: At the end of each day, when we put our head down on our pillow to go to sleep, we might think through the things that have gone wrong; the things that didn’t go our way; the decisions and actions that went against us. But there is one thing that gives us hope and strength – – and that’s knowing that we got a fair shake. In legal speak – that means due process.
When we can no longer believe that America gives us a fair shake, that is when our Republic starts to fall apart. And yet, half the Country believes that “the fix” was in. That must stop now!
Our Founding Fathers knew that truth, fairness, and integrity were so important for our Republic that they added the Due Process Clause to our Constitution. Together we can restore due process for our elections. We can get to the point where, at the end of the day, we can all believe that we had a fair chance to elect the people to serve us.