Judge Joe Hardy
With a passion for service in the community and the recognition as a top attorney prior to serving on the bench, District Court Judge Joe Hardy is making sure to leave a positive imprint in Department 15. Prior to his appointment in 2015 by Governor Sandoval, Hardy was a co-managing partner at Gordon Rees, one of the largest law firms in the country. A third generation Nevadan, Hardy attended Boulder City High School before going on to graduate from Brigham Young University (BYU). While in law school at BYU he was the senior editor of the BYU Law Review and graduated cum laude. Hardy currently resides in Henderson with his family and when he is not on the bench he focuses on raising his two sons and working in the community with the Boy Scouts of America.
Vegas Legal Magazine: What did you do before becoming a judge?
Judge Joe Hardy: I grew up in Boulder City and went to undergraduate and law school at Brigham Young University, aka BYU. My legal career at a local firm called Beckley Singleton where I worked for about six years. From there I went to a regional law firm, Bullivant Houser Bailey, where I became a partner. My last six-plus years before becoming a judge were spent as a partner at a national law firm called Gordon & Rees.
Throughout my legal career I was fortunate to work with some of the best attorneys in Nevada and learn from them first hand. As an attorney I handled a wide variety of civil litigation matters. I was also able to serve the citizens of Nevada as an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau, and as a member of the Taxicab Authority Board, Best Buddies of Southern Nevada, and the City of Henderson charter review committee.
VLM: What is the most memorable case you tried as an attorney before taking the bench?
JH: As with many attorneys, my most memorable trial as an attorney was my first. I was a young associate, licensed for about three years, when I was tasked with trying a complex civil litigation case in front of a jury. I was essentially thrown into the deep end of the pool and told to sink or swim.
We represented the franchisee of a national fast food chain and were suing an engineering and architecture firm for professional negligence. The crux of the lawsuit and trial rested on the appropriate and required size of a leach field (septic system) and the complex interplay between Clark County and Nevada codes. I did most of the pre-trial work in the case and took the lead in questioning several of the witnesses at the trial. It was a great lesson in how to prepare a case for trial and how to try a case before a jury.
VLM: What made you decide to run for judge?
JH: When I decided to go to law school I thought I would be one of those lawyers who never goes to court. Because I was a shy introvert, I thought I would stick to writing contracts for a living. My career path changed quickly however. The summer after my first year, I had the great fortune of doing a summer externship for the Honorable Lloyd D. George in federal court here in Las Vegas. Judge George was so kind, thoughtful, and soft-spoken as a judge that I thought maybe one day I could become a judge like him. As a side note, the federal courthouse here in Vegas is named after him and he is still going strong on the bench as a senior judge.
Growing up as a kid, my parents instilled in me a desire to serve the public and give back to our community. Despite raising eight children, they were both always active in the community and giving with their time. Additionally, they taught us not to complain about something if we were not willing to anything about it. That life lesson helped push me to become a judge. Litigators, and I was one of them, sometimes complain about judges and their rulings. I figured it would be unfair of me to complain if I wasn’t willing to do something about it, so I ran for and applied to become a judge.
VLM: What does being a judge mean to you?
JH: Being a judge provides me with an avenue in which to serve the public, give back to the community that has been so wonderful to me and my family, and do my small part to help ensure our citizens’ rights and obligations are protected and enforced by the rule of law. It means doing my small part to make our system of justice the best it can be.
VLM: What is your favorite and least favorite thing about being a judge?
JH: My favorite thing about being a judge is being able to focus on what attracted me to the law to begin with—that is doing good for our citizens and businesses alike through the medium of the law. To me being a judge is both a humbling and personally gratifying experience. I take my position very seriously and strive to uphold the law as a judge to the best of my abilities.
Having always worked at law firms during my career as an attorney, the isolation of being a judge has taken some getting used to. Perhaps that is why I thoroughly enjoy the back and forth with attorneys who come before me to argue for their clients in hearings.
VLM: Describe a situation where you had to support a legal position that conflicted with your personal beliefs? Please tell us how you handled it.
JH: Fortunately, I have not come across this situation in my tenure as a judge. As a judge, I am to set aside my personal beliefs if they are in conflict with the law.
VLM: Describe a court situation that tested the limits of your patience. How did you respond? In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
JH: In one of my first jury trials as a judge, one of the attorneys showed up late on the first day. His office called to let us know he would be late, but they did not call until after we were supposed to have begun the trial. That wasn’t too big of deal as we all run into issues beyond our control from time to time. However, on the third day, he was late again and again without a call to let us know until after time to start. To make matters worse, everyone else, including the jurors and the attorney’s own client, was on time and we were all waiting on this particular attorney. The attorney’s tardiness was disrespectful so I told opposing counsel to think of what sanction, if any, I should issue. Luckily for the tardy attorney, opposing counsel simply suggested that the attorney apologize to myself, my staff, and his client. In hindsight, I would have silently counted to ten after the attorney arrived and before I took the bench.
VLM: What’s your biggest pet peeve caused by attorneys that appear in your courtroom?
JH: As you may be able to tell from my last answer, my biggest pet peeve is when attorneys are late without good reason and without letting us know ahead of time.
VLM: What is your best piece of advice for litigants and/or attorneys?
JH: For litigants, I would say do your best to listen to and follow the advice of your attorneys. They are experts in the law and you pay them for their expertise. I am always puzzled when litigants think they know the law better than their own attorneys.
For attorneys my advice is always be sure to comply with your duty of candor to the court and remember the judge’s staff is an extension of the judge. Although the vast majority of attorneys are courteous to my staff, there are some who are not. I guess those attorneys may not realize that my staff and I do talk to each other!
VLM: What is your passion outside of law?
JH: My family. My wife Yvonne and I are blessed to have two sons, ages 9 and 13, whom we love and adore dearly. Watching them grow and develop and doing my best to help them become good citizens and members of our community give me great joy.
Apart from my family, I enjoy going to the movies, reading, and watching the best shows on Netflix. Two of my favorite foods are hamburgers and chicken parmesan, so I am constantly on the lookout for the best of both at various restaurants around town.
VLM: What do you love most about Vegas?
JH: I love how Las Vegas has become, and is still becoming, a major metropolitan area. When I was growing up here, Vegas was still a relatively small city that lacked a number of attractions common to larger cities. I love how we now have community attractions like Springs Preserve, the Smith Center for Performing Arts, two water parks, the relocated Discovery Children’s Museum, Neonopolis, T-Mobile Arena, etc.
Specific to the legal community here, I love the fact that despite the city’s tremendous growth, the legal field is still relatively small. I think that lends to better self-governance amongst members of our bar than in other large legal communities where members of the bar may never see each other again after working on a particular case.