Judge Griffin dies after heart attack
Michael Griffin, who served 28 years as a Carson District court Judge, died this week at Renown Hospital in Reno.
He was 72.
Griffin was first elected in 1978 and took office in January 1979. He retired in 2007 after one of the longest tenures on the bench in state history.
When he retired, he said one of the things he most looked forward to was the right to have an opinion. He said one of the burdens of being a district judge is “you’ve got to watch what you say — everywhere.”
“It’s just common sense that a judge can’t talk about what you think because it will come back on you,” he said after leaving the bench, adding now, “I‘m entitled to an opinion.”
“I knew it was time to retire when I started seeing the grandchildren of people I dealt with as a judge,” he said. “It grinds on you. After a while, you get tired of seeing what people do to each other.”
During his career he handled numerous high profile cases including settling the U.S. Senate election battle between Harry Reid and John Ensign in 1998. More than 415,000 voted in that race but, after a recount, it was decided by just 428 votes. Griffin ruled Reid the victor.
But he also had his more unconventional moments on the bench. In one contentious divorce case, son Matt said his father finally told both the husband and wife to go home and number each of the possessions they were fighting over. At the next hearing he asked if they did what he said and, when they said yes, he pointed at them and said, “OK, you get the even numbers and you get the odd.”
Griffin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about the time he retired, a condition that eventually prevented him from his passion — playing guitar.
“What he did was play guitar,” said son John. “How he earned a living was being a judge.”
He died after suffering a massive heart attack.
Griffin was born and raised in Carson City, playing football at Carson High and basketball at the University of Nevada. He earned his law degree at the University of San Francisco and served in the Army’s Judge Advocate Corps before taking a job at the state Public Defender’s office. He took a job with a Reno law firm after retiring in large part to be closer to his grandchildren.
Griffin is survived by his wife Jill, to whom he was devoted for 45 years, along with sons Matt and John and daughter Gina Solari.
Services are set for Friday, August 26 at 1 p.m. at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church in Carson City.