New federal courthouse named after LDS judge

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Many workers receive a gold watch when they retire. Lloyd D. George received a building.

The former chief judge doesn't own the building and he won't live in it, but a $102 million federal courthouse in downtown Las Vegas bears his name.

The new Lloyd D. George United States Courthouse was dedicated Nov. 1, during a ceremony that honored the Latter-day Saint for his years of service on the federal bench. Current Nevada Chief Judge Howard McKibben thanked Brother George, "for lending the dignity of his name to the courthouse."

Brother George was the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada for five years. He plans to continue to serve as a district judge "for as long as I am useful," a position to which he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

According to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and a fellow Church member, Brother George is one of the most distinguished jurists of the federal judiciary.

"There is no greater honor we could bestow on the new courthouse in Las Vegas than to name it after a man who has served our nation with such distinction. Those who have the privilege of knowing Judge George, as I do, consider him to be a man of great integrity whose career has been marked by a constant commitment to justice," said Sen. Reid during a presentation before President Bill Clinton.

The City of Las Vegas donated six acres on Las Vegas Boulevard between Clark and Bridger Avenues to the federal government which built the eight-story courthouse. It opened in July.

Brother George is proud of the building that bears his name. "It's a functional building and it's a very striking building." The building is part of a revitalization project in downtown Las Vegas. Brother George hopes that it will become a focal point of community life, not only for upholding the law, but where people will gather to discuss ideas, enjoy the arts and preserve the history of southern Nevada.

Brother George was born in Montpelier, Idaho, but now considers Las Vegas his home, having moved here as a child with his family. The new courthouse bearing his name rises between the schools he attended, with the 5th Street Elementary School (now used as a University of Nevada-Las Vegas extension campus) on the west and Las Vegas High School on the east. Brother George graduated in 1948, serving as student body president during his senior year.

He showed his penchant for service early. He served a mission to the Northern States and as student body president at Brigham Young University. He then flew B-47s as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, before attending law school at the University of California at Berkeley.

He returned to Las Vegas after graduation in 1961. He practiced law for 14 years, becoming senior partner in the law firm of George, Steffen and Simmons. When he was a U.S. bankruptcy judge in Nevada from 1974 to 1984, he was instrumental in the establishment of bankruptcy appellate panels.

In 1984 he was the first LDS member from Nevada to be appointed to a federal judgeship. In this role, he sat by designation on a number of United States Circuit Courts of Appeals and wrote numerous articles of legal significance.

While serving on the International Judicial Relations Committee he worked with newly developing democracies that were former Soviet Union states to draft constitutions and aided the Russian government in establishing an administrative structure for their courts.

The law is important to Brother George. He requested that a plaque be placed in the lobby of the Lloyd D. George United States Courthouse quoting Supreme Court Justice William H. Rhenquist: "The cornerstone of the American judicial system is the trial courts . . . in which witnesses testify, juries deliberate and justice is done."

He sees his responsibility as a judge to preserve the freedoms given by the United States Constitution through proper interpretation of the United States Constitution and laws. He recognizes the need to make good judgments to influence the future.

Brother George has great respect for the freedoms granted in the U.S. Constitution. He also sees the risks to the nation by individuals who lack self-control and unwisely use their freedoms.

He said that freedom is balanced between laws and individual self-control. As individuals display self-control, fewer laws are necessary. But as individuals choose not to use their self-control, society must step in to assert that control.

He said that parents' greatest obligation is to teach values to their children. His affinity for the home and family is evident. Within his spacious chambers is a small room where he claims all the real work is done. Surrounding his work table are tall bookcases, filled not with law books, but with photographs of his wife, children and grandchildren.

He speaks lovingly of his wife, LaPrele, whom he met while attending BYU. They have four children.

In addition to work and family, Brother George has been a faithful Church member, serving as bishop, high councilor, regional welfare agent and a seminary teacher.

With humility and a kind spirit, he sums up his life with gratitude: "I'm very lucky in being able to do interesting things."

Kristin Millis is a correspondent for the LDS-oriented Beehive Newspaper, which first published this article.