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April 20, 2014

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THE LAST WORD:

Six questions for Matt Callister

Attorney and former politician

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Steve Marcus

Lawyer Matt Callister is a former state senator, state assemblyman and Las Vegas City Council member who once ran from a bull — unsuccessfully — in a ring in Costa Rica. His back was broken in the incident.

Talking to lawyer Matt Callister is like trying to wrangle electricity.

He has hundreds of stories and just as many interests and opinions, all of which he is eager to share with you in one sitting. (In between riffs on politics and the state’s budget crisis, he sketches three rectangles to illustrate his explanation about the vertebrae he fractured about 15 years ago.)

As a state assemblyman from 1987 to 1993, a state senator from 1993 to 1995, a Las Vegas City Council member from 1995 to 1997 and a lawyer for three decades, he has positioned himself as a lightning rod for many high-profile cases and legislative decisions.

Why did you get into politics?

You really can make a difference. We got class-size limits for the first three grades, for example.

You were asked to run against Republican Sen. Bob Beers this year. Why didn’t you?

They wanted me to run because the Democrats need only one more seat to control the state Senate. But I don’t want to be in the Senate unless Democrats are already in control. Bill Raggio (Reno Republican) has run this state for far too long.

So will you run for mayor of Las Vegas?

I’d only run if I could surrender the charter of the city to the county or the state. We need consolidation. A decade ago, they said it would save $30 million in the justice system alone.

What’s your advice to young attorneys?

As Brian Wilson says, “Hold onto your ego.” Whenever you see an attorney performing in court, it’s not helping the client. The client might like it, but he’s really losing the case.

Why were you excommunicated as a Mormon?

I tried for years to quit. My state president wouldn’t let me bail. Quitting is nearly impossible. They can fire you from the club but you can’t quit the club. When he got replaced, they threw me out.

How did you break your back in Costa Rica?

Bullfighting for tourists. They brought in a bull called ‘Horse Killer’ and the locals moved to one side, leaving the two guys, me and my friend, in its sights. I ran, but it nailed me, balanced me on its horns — then stomped me.

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