Michael Douglas will become the first African-American chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court effective with the new year.
On the Nevada high court, chief justice is a rotating position among the justices.
Douglas, 62, will take the administrative leadership of the court during what is expected to be a contentious 2011 legislative session. He succeeds Ron Parraguirre, who was chief justice through 2010.
He served as a district judge in Clark County from 1996-2004 when he was named to the Supreme Court. He has won election to the high court twice since.
"With the budget cuts the courts have already endured, it is increasingly difficult to fulfill our constitutional role," said Douglas. "Certainly we acknowledge the budgetary difficulties in Nevada and will do our part, as we always have."
He said the high court has reverted millions of dollars to the general fund in the past few years because of the budget crisis.
The court, however, has not imposed on its employees the unpaid, day-a-month furloughs that other state workers have had to take, arguing instead that it has met the required reductions in other ways.
The Supreme Court manages a judicial branch which also includes and funds the salaries of more than 70 district judges around the state.
Its general fund budget is about $60 million for the biennium. In addition, the judiciary receives just over half the administrative assessment revenue collected from court fines and fees - about $34 million for the biennium.