Every well-known Las Vegas historical figure has likely come in contact with the courts and the jurists who presided over the countless cases that have worked their way through to justice. Today, the Eighth Judicial District Court unveiled 95 portraits dating back as far as 1910 when District Court commenced with just one department. Outside each civil/criminal department, portraits now hang with jurists who served in the department at a point in time during the court’s fast evolving past. The mostly stoic photos are black and white and look like they are out of an episode of Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire or another bygone era. They show a strong contrast from today, with a bench made up of more than 50 percent women.
It took years to track down the portraits for the wall of history project that was spearheaded by Judge Valorie Vega. She is a court historian of sorts and felt it was important to showcase them and the history they invoke. A treasure-trove of old portraits was uncovered in the courthouse basement and Judge Vega beat the bushes to get the rest to provide a complete 100-plus-year history of District Court. The installation of the 95 portraits was done in one day, in time for the Nevada sesquicentennial celebration.
Judge David Barker, who is the incoming chief judge, thanked Judge Vega for her work on the project and for what it signifies. He said, “Each portrait has a beginning date and ending date. For me it starts at 2007 with a dash. That tells me what begins, ends; what we do matters. We are part of this legacy as judges and we should also recognize the people that stand behind us.”
The Eighth Judicial District Court now has 52 departments that serve the more than 2 million Clark County residents, plus visitors. In fiscal year 2013, 11,757 criminal cases were filed, 23,865 civil cases were filed, 52,538 family cases were filed, and 7,514 juvenile cases were filed. In District Court, history is made every day.
Judge Vega closed out the ceremony by saying, “This is my last team effort and I really appreciate being able to make this contribution with everybody’s assistance.”