Two top AG’s staffers win reprieve on license status pending July bar exams

Two of Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s top staffers have been told they can continue to practice law in Nevada until July when they have committed to take the bar exam.

Among those not yet licensed in Nevada are Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke and Chief of Staff Nick Trutanich, both of whom have been working in the AG’s office under limited practice certifications. Those certifications are designed to allow the Attorney General to hire out-of-state attorneys and give them some time to pass the Nevada Bar.

Trutanich’s position doesn’t actually have to be held by a lawyer but, if the chief of staff isn’t, he would be unable to participate in any legal decisions made by the office.

That two-year grace period expired this year but VanDyke and Trutanich petitioned the court to give them an extension saying they intend to take the bar exam in July. They said they have not done so yet because they relied on representations by staff at the Bar Association that they could renew their certifications annually as long as they were employed by the Attorney General’s office.

The ruling was far from unanimous, approved 4-3 by justices Michael Douglas, Mark Gibbons, Kris Pickering and Ron Parraguirre.

They ruled, however, that if either does not take and pass the exam in July, their certification to practice law in Nevada will expire.

The remaining members of the court, Chief Justice Michael Cherry and Justices Lidia Stiglich and Jim Hardesty, dissented saying the clear language of the high court’s rules states that, “in no event shall certification to practice under (Supreme Court Rule 49.8) remain in effect longer than two years.”

They said that could result in “the absurd situation” in which a lawyer could practice in Nevada for 20 years or more just by remaining employed at the Attorney General’s office.

The dissent concludes that VanDyke and Trutanich basically should not have relied on a statement by Bar staff that they could simply renew the limited certification every year in perpetuity since that contradicts the clear language of the rule.


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