Las Vegas Sun

December 17, 2014

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Federal building to be named after George

In the summer of 1953, Frank Sinatra was lounging at poolside at the Sands hotel-casino when he asked a 23-year-old lifeguard for a screwdriver.

The young man, thinking the famed entertainer's lounge chair needed some kind of adjustment, brought the crooner a flat-head screwdriver.

"No, not that," Sinatra laughed, "the drink!"

As popular as Sinatra was, no structure in Las Vegas is named for Ol' Blue Eyes, who died in May 1998. But soon a building will be named for that lifeguard, who went on to get a law degree and become the chief U.S. district judge for Nevada, Lloyd George.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill to name the $97 million federal building at 333 Las Vegas Blvd. South the Lloyd D. George United States Courthouse, honoring the jurist who has served as a federal judge in Las Vegas since May 1984 and a as bankruptcy judge for 10 years before that.

The bill, HR 1481, which passed by voice vote, awaits President Clinton's signature. The 407,000-square-foot federal building is expected to open next year.

"Chief Judge George has set a benchmark for current and future leaders of Nevada," said Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev. "This courthouse designation is an enduring gesture to show our appreciation for Judge George's hard work and dedication to the people and judicial integrity of ... Nevada."

"I cannot think of a more suitable honor to bestow on this beloved Las Vegan who has served the citizens of Nevada with humility, scholarship, compassion and dignity," Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said on the floor of the House prior to the vote.

"Lloyd George is highly respected by his peers as a man of great knowledge and integrity, and he has been instrumental in shaping the federal judiciary in Nevada," said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who introduced a similar Senate bill that was passed in March by unanimous consent.

Born in Montpelier, Idaho, George moved to Las Vegas with his family at a young age. He attended the old Fifth Street Grammar School, now a county building, a stone's throw from the building that will bear his name. He was class president at the old Las Vegas High School, a block from where the new federal building is being erected.

George, who turns 70 on Feb. 22, took senior status in December of 1997 to clear the way for the appointment of another full-time judge to ease the heavy Las Vegas caseload, which in recent years has been among the three busiest in the nation.

Federal judges, who are appointed for life, have the option of reducing their caseload under senior status as they approach retirement age. When they do, the president must appoint a full-time judge to replace them.

Despite taking senior status, George, at the time, said he would be one of the more active part-time federal judges. He has lived up to that promise by presiding over several highly visible cases.

One of them was an unsuccessful challenge earlier this year to the county's anti-smut ordinance that stopped representatives of outcall adult entertainment services from distributing handbills in front of major Strip resorts.

Another was the 1998 case of Central Environmental Inc., of Alaska, which was fined $75,000 for failing to remove all of the asbestos from the Landmark hotel prior to its November 1995 implosion.

That same year, George's lengthy prison sentences issued to two men convicted in the 1993 kidnapping of the daughter of Las Vegas gaming mogul Steve Wynn was upheld. George gave Ray Cuddy 24 1/2 years and Jacob Sherwood 19 years.

George also has not been sedentary in recent years. He was traveling out of the country Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. In June 1995, George was invited to former communist Tajikistan, which was trying to establish judicial independence.

While visiting the ex-Soviet state north of Afghanistan and west of China, George urged Tajikistan leaders to embrace ideas found in the U.S. Constitution, such as separation of powers.

In July 1997, Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., and Reid first proposed naming the new local federal courthouse after George. Groundbreaking for the courthouse, featuring six judge's courtrooms, six magistrate courtrooms and other federal offices, was on Nov. 17 of that year.

The George courthouse will replace the Foley Federal Building, which was built in 1967 across from the new structure and has three courtrooms. The Foley building long ago developed space problems as many federal agencies have relocated to other sites around the valley over the last quarter of a century.

"I think that this building will have a stabilizing influence on the city of Las Vegas," George said in an October 1996 Sun story, long before he knew it would be named for him.

George served in the Air Force as a pilot before earning his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1961, the year he was admitted to the Nevada bar and started his practice in Las Vegas.

In 1974, George was appointed by the Ninth Circuit to preside over the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Las Vegas -- a 14-year term. In 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan appointed George to the federal bench. Six years later, George was named chief federal judge for Nevada.

A civic leader, George is a past recipient of the Jurist of the Year Award and the Liberty Bell Award for Public Service and is a past president of the Clark County Association for Retarded Children.

George has served as a board member of the Federal Judicial Center and the National Bankruptcy Conference, chairman of the Judicial Advisory for Bankruptcy Rules and a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy.

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