Cliff Young

Interviews with Nevada Supreme Court Justice Cliff Young were conducted during May, June, and July of 1999 at his home south of Reno. The setting is peaceful and relaxed—a ten-acre ranchette with a large pond near the front entrance and a driveway through mature shade trees. The Young ranch house is well-known to many who have been invited to enjoy a summer barbeque. The big, black lab Jet, who was Justice Young’s constant companion except when chasing ducks out of the pond, welcomed this visitor. Jet slept near Justice Young’s feet as we recorded the interviews, and occasionally the cat Lily would walk through the study, across the desk and the tape recorder, and once draped herself around my neck and stayed for part of the conversation.

Justice Young is a seasoned storyteller who seems as relaxed as his home. From his early law practice in Reno in 1949 to the United States Congress, the Nevada Senate, and finally to the Nevada Supreme Court, his memories were clear and easily tapped for his oral history interviews. He especially remembered who was where and doing what, and the list of names of the people he worked with and/or counted as friends reads like the Who’s Who for Nevada, starting in the 1950s.

Yet, Justice Young is a many-faceted Nevada gem, and beneath the calm surface is a man who has been willing to enter the fray. He served his country in World War II and is a decorated combat veteran. He served his state as an attorney and Supreme Court Justice; a U.S. Congressman, a state legislator and an active Republican Party member; and as an environmentalist with a special passion for Nevada’s state parks. His oral history covers in detail his work that influenced court reform and addressed issues such as the death penalty, overcrowding in prisons, and reduction of the court’s case backlog.

He balanced a lifetime of exemplary public service with his devotion to the things and people he loves. His life has been rich with music, painting, poetry, fishing, hunting, horses, friends, and his family. While the emphasis of his oral history was on his work and contributions to Nevada’s legal profession, hopefully, it includes some of the many aspects of Cliff Young, the man.

Oral history interviews were conducted with Justice Young as part of the Nevada Legal Oral History Project, a cooperative project among the Nevada Judicial Historical Society, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society, and the University of Nevada Oral History Program (UNOHP). Funding was provided by a grant from the Dangberg Foundation to the Nevada Judicial Historical Society, while the UNOHP donated transcription and production services. The Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society provided professional expertise and administered the grant. Thanks go to Susan Southwick of the Nevada Judicial Historical Society, Brad Williams of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society, and Jan Doescher of Justice Young’s office for their help with this project.

The transcripts that resulted from the interviews have been slightly edited for readability, but the natural episodic structure follows the interview tapes. Amusement or laughter is represented with [laughter] at the end of the sentence; and ellipses are used, not to indicate that material has been deleted, but to indicate that a statement has been interrupted or is incomplete . . . or there is a pause for dramatic effect.

For readers who are interested in examining the unaltered records, copies of the tape-recorded interviews are in the archives at the Nevada Supreme Court Library at Carson City, Nevada; the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society at Pasadena, California; and the UNOHP in Reno. As with all oral history projects, Justice Young has recorded his remembered past, and memory is never flawless. Readers should exercise the same caution used when consulting government records, newspaper accounts, diaries, and other primary sources of historical information.

Interviewee: Cliff Young
Interviewed: 1999
Published: 2002
Interviewer: Victoria Ford
UNOHP Catalog #193

This introduction is reprinted with permission from the University of Nevada Oral History Archive, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno. The full oral history transcript was created for the Nevada Legal Oral History Project. Click here for the full oral history transcript.

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