What I've Learned Justice James W. Hardesty


Nevada Supreme Court  justice, former ASUN president, avid Wolf Pack fan

James and Sandy Hardesty
James Hardesty and his wife of 49 years, Sandy ’85, met on campus and have been recognized in the University’s Honor Court as Silver Benefactors for their generous support of Wolf Pack Athletics since 1983. (Photo: family handout)

What was the most important lesson you learned at the University?

The thing that was most impactful in my life from the University was the opportunity to serve in student government at a unique period in history. The war in Vietnam brought a lot of student activism to the country and campuses, and it raised a lot of tension between activists and law enforcement, similar to what we’re experiencing today.

As student body president, I thought it was important for us to take a different approach from the turmoil on many campuses nationwide. I chose a more cooperative, communicative way to address the administration and Nevada Board of Regents, and that taught me a lifelong lesson about the productivity and value of civil communication.

One of the many highlights of our last year in school was the student-government sponsored N. Edd Miller Day in October 1969. Robyn Powers ’70 (art), student body vice president, and I organized several thousand students to meet then-University President Miller at 6:30 a.m. at the gates of the University. The meeting was not done to protest but rather to express our appreciation for him and his willingness to listen and work with students. The event resulted in considerable national publicity for the University, and a picture of President Miller, Robyn and me appeared in more than 130 newspapers nationwide. This civil approach also laid the groundwork for the Regents to consider, for the first time, a student bill of rights.

For me, the lesson learned was the value of civil communication, respect of other points of view and working together to achieve success for all parties involved.

What professional achievements are you most proud of?

It has been an incredible honor to serve on the Nevada Supreme Court for the last 16 years. But I think of the many things I’ve been able to do, the most impactful was the effort we made to amend the Nevada Constitution to create a Court of Appeals, followed by the complicated negotiation and construction of a new courthouse in Las Vegas.

The question about establishing an appellate court had been on the ballot for four decades, and I don’t think anybody dreamed we could find a way to fund and construct a brand new courthouse at a time when the state’s budget was in poor shape (2015-17).

Now five years later, the Court of Appeals has decided nearly 6,000 cases, and we have significantly reduced the backlog of cases pending in the state Supreme Court.

I am honored to be part of this change improving our state’s justice system and incredibly humbled that very courthouse in Las Vegas will carry my name after retirement.

What advice would you give a recent Nevada graduate
who is just starting a career?

Have confidence in the education you’ve received. Work hard. Be passionate. And remember the importance of taking time for yourself and your family.

The alumnus or alumna of the year is a Nevada graduate who distinguishes themselves among their peers, gives back to Nevada and supports the University’s mission of providing outstanding learning, discovery and engagement opportunities to students to meet the urgent needs of the modern world.