Retired District Court Judge Michael R. Griffin passed away on August 17, 2016. He was a loyal and devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend.
He was born on December 9, 1943, a fourth-generation Nevadan whose family arrived in Virginia City before Nevada’s statehood. His Irish father, John, grew up in Tonopah before attending the University of Nevada. It was there he met Mike’s mother, Lena, a headstrong Italian from Yerington. They married and moved to Carson City where they raised four boys. Mike’s best friends were his brothers John, Tim, and Pat. He loved growing up in Carson City, all of his friends, the people, the culture, and the attitude.
He graduated from Carson High School in 1961. He was a Senator for life. A star athlete on the football and basketball teams, he was also on the band and quartet, under the legendary music teacher, Al Saliman. Mike was honored to be inducted recently in the Carson High School Football Hall of Fame.
He left Carson City to attend the University of Nevada. Though most of his Carson friends joined him, his universe expanded to a wonderful group of people who remained friends, colleagues, and even mentors for the rest of his life. He would always say that if he could freeze his life at one moment in time, it would be as a sophomore at UNR at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house. Like everything with Mike, it was a connection that remained constant and real throughout his life.
After graduating law school from the University of San Francisco, he served in the United States Army in Korea. During this time, he courted the love of his life, Jill, whom he had met while in college. He would record reel-to-reel tapes from Korea, playing songs on his guitar and talking to Jill and her daughter Gina. They married on June 12, 1971, at Our Lady of the Snows in Reno.
Returning to Carson City, Mike and Jill raised their three kids. It was this that gave Mike the most joy in his life. He never lost his connection to his numerous friends, but his wife and his family were his constant focus and source of pride. Anyone who was friends with his kids was family to him.
Mike began his legal career as an aide to Governor Mike O’Callaghan. He worked as a public defender before running for District Court Judge at the age of 34. He was elected and served for 28 years. He had two quotes hanging on his wall that he walked by every day before going on the bench: “But Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters and Righteousness Like a Mighty Stream” and “Do Justice.” He loved going to work every day at the Courthouse because of all of the law clerks, court reporters, clerks, security guards, and attorneys with whom he would interact. He followed the lives and careers of every law clerk with paternal pride. The one thing he missed after retiring was his constant contact and friendship with his friends at the Courthouse, Mary, Annette, Julie, Colleen, Rhonda, Carrie, Chris, and so many others.
Mike loved music. He played in many bands, performing in high school, college, and around the state for over 50 years. His final band was appropriately named “Mike and the Liabilities.” He collected guitars and encouraged many people to get into music. One of his favorite things was to take a friend, a relative, a law clerk, or for that matter, anybody who wanted to go, to Bizarre Guitar to see Greg and buy a guitar. A few abused the privilege and obtained the family discount or even put it on Mike’s tab. He never cared. He would go guitar shopping with anybody at any time. His musical tastes were vast. Many a person recounts the music echoing off the marble walls of the Carson City Courthouse. At any given time, it could be Pavarotti, Merle Haggard, the Clash, U2, the Clancy Brothers, ZZ Top, or his favorite, Emmylou Harris.
Mike had an appreciation for human decency. He sought it and found it in almost everybody. Ironically, he never judged, taking his friends, family, and acquaintances at their best. He was grounded, comfortable with himself, and able to see the best in everyone he met. He adored his wife, loved his children, and was consumed with his grandchildren.
Mike was preceded in death by his father in 1982, his mother in 2004, his brother John in 2014, and far too many of his friends. He is survived by his bride, Jill, his daughter Gina, his sons John (Felicia), and Matt (Karen), his grandchildren Davis, Jillian, Camille, Greyson, and Quinn; and his brothers and best friends, Tim and Pat.
Services will be held at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, Carson City, at 1 p.m. on Friday, August 26, 2016.