Honorable Charles Edward Springer
Honorable Charles E. Springer - February 20, 1928 - February 19, 2019
Former Supreme Court Justice (and Chief Justice)
Juvenile Court Master
Champion of the Underserved
On February 19th, one day shy of his 91st birthday, our beloved Charles bid us "Adieu" after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer which he fought valiantly in his unique manner, he did it "His Way", still maintaining his dignity, charm, and wit.
Native Nevadan, Charles E. Springer was born in Reno to E. L. and Rose Kelly Springer. His father died in his infancy during the Depression and his widowed mother worked for the U.S. government as an Executive Secretary to Commanding Generals, travelling across the U.S. As a result, Charles was partially raised by his loving grandparents, Mary Connolly and William Aloysius Kelly. His grandfather, during the depression, was the bailiff of the Washoe County Court House and Charles remembered a very happy childhood, often visiting the courthouse with his grandfather. He felt very comfortable in the courtrooms and with the court personnel, perhaps influencing him in later years to become a lawyer.
Charles attended Mt. Rose Elementary School and Billinghurst Jr. High. He then went to Mountain View, California to Attend St. Joseph's College, a Catholic Seminary. He felt that the education he received there started his thirst for "learning". After several years at St. Joseph's he returned to Reno and graduated from Reno High School in 1945.
At the Height of World War 11, at the age of 17, Charles enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served in Japan as a paratrooper in the Occupation Forces. After his honorable discharge, he reenrolled at the University of Nevada and graduated in 1950. While there, as he often said, "He had the good fortune to meet his soon to be wife, Jacqueline Sirkegian." The couple married on St. Patrick's Day 1951.
During the time he was at Reno High and the University of Nevada, he was a standout and champion athlete competing as a sprinter in track and was on the legendary football team of Nevada in the late 1940's. Springer was one of the few athletes qualified to become a member of the National Athletic Fraternity, Sigma Delta Psi.
He received a ROTC commission at the University as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve and joined the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha. Later in his career, he served on the Board of Education for the University and taught as an adjunct professor of Business Law.
After graduation, the couple moved to Washington D.C. where Charles was already enrolled at Georgetown University Law School. He was under the patronage of the late Senator Patrick McCarran and Jacquie worked for Senator Molly Malone. Charles graduated from that prestigious school in 1953.
After he had passed both the D.C. Bar Exam and the Nevada State Exam he returned to Reno. He was sworn into both bar's in 1953, and at the time of his death had practiced law for 65 years.
In his thirst for knowledge, Charles returned to the University of Nevada (he insisted always on calling it as that rather than UNR because there was only one University at the time) for a Pre-Med Course when the Medical School opened. Even though he was told he was too old to be admitted, he pursued the course with perfect grades and applied.
However, more importantly, was the degree he received from the University of Virginia and Oriel College at Oxford, England (L.L.B.) in 1985. The course was only for appellate judges and took three summers to complete. He took this course after he became a Supreme Court Justice.
Upon his graduation from Georgetown, he returned to Nevada and in this order: joined the firm of Drendel and Dixon; became Federal Judge Roger D. Foley's only law clerk; and formed a law firm called Springer, McKissick, and Hug with two of his best friends since youth. Howard McKissick later became a Nevada State Legislator and was Speaker of the House. Procter Hug, Jr. later became Chief Judge of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Together they developed and taught "The Nevada Bar Review Course."
Charles was active in Politics and served the Democratic Party as Washoe County and State Chairman, and as a National Committeeman. He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the National Small Business Administration and in 1962 received a National award as "Outstanding Young Democrat."
In the 60's he served as a legal advisor to Governor Grant Sawyer and Sawyer appointed him as Attorney General in 1962.
In 1969, Judge Emile Gezelin asked Charles to establish a Juvenile Court in Washoe County. Charles did just that and set up and designed a courtroom for the proceedings. He then was appointed as Juvenile Master and acted as the first Juvenile Judge from 1970 -1980.
In 1980, Charles ran successfully on a very small budget against two formidable lawyers and a popular Judge from Las Vegas, for the Supreme Court. He was elected and went on for two more terms unopposed, serving 18 years on the Supreme Court. Always an advocate for Women's Rights, Charles was one of the few members in 1995 on the Nevada Commission for Women. He also headed a Supreme Court study o Gender Bias in the Judiciary. He was well respected; a mentor to his law clerks, and wrote many important opinions and dissents that have shaped the Nevada legal community for years. He retired in 1999.
Charles loved to share his knowledge and did so by serving on the faculty of the National College of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, The National Judicial College, and was an adjunct professor at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. He also taught as a visiting professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China and at the Center for Basque Studies in San Sebastian, Spain. He participated in Moot Courts at McGeorge, Pepperdine, and Southwestern Law Schools.
Springer, a prolific writer, published among others, scholarly articles on legal Judicial issues and books on the following: "Justice for Juveniles", U.S. Department of Justice 1986; "Rehabilitating The Juvenile Court", Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy" in 1991; "Nevada Women's Legal Guide" (co-authored with Paula Quagliana), Nevada Commission for Women 1995; and "Advisory to the American Law Institute on Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution: Analysis and Recommendations" which was finally published in 2000.
He received many awards and plaudits, including: "Outstanding Service Award" from the National College of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; the "Civil Libertarian of the Year Award" from the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; "The UNR Midby-Byron Distinguished Leadership Award"; "The Washoe County Teacher's Association Award for Outstanding Service"; and "Who's Who in American Law".
He belonged to many professional boards and civic organizations such as: Reno Nevada Museum of Art; the Chamber Orchestra; Prospectors' Club; Scholastic Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi; President of English Linguistic Group: the President of the National Association of Juvenile Court Judges; Veterans of Foreign Wars; American Legion; and Fellow of the American Bar Association.
Charlie will be sorely missed by his multitude of friends in Nevada, across the United States and abroad as well as his family. He was a devoted and loving husband, father, and grandfather to his three grandchildren. He was always the life of the party and lit up the room at any gathering.
He is survived by Jacquie, his loving wife of 68 years, his daughter Kelli and her husband Rick Campbell and his three grandchildren, Charles Tyler, Kelsey Cecelia, (fiancé Connor McLeod) and Karina Ann. He is also survived by his niece Kimberly Seidler, and nephews Paul (Roseann) Anderson and Dee (Elsa) Anderson and their families.
Charles was a true gentleman and a scholar and Nevada was lucky to have him as a native son. He devoted his legal career to righting wrongs and to the preventing the mistreatment of others.
Thank you to the many who were there for Charles, especially Carmelite Sister Maria Ahearn, Dr. Steven Bajo and his caregivers. In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to the Carmelite Monastery.
A Mass is scheduled for Saturday, March 16th at 11:00 A.M, at Our Lady of the Snows (Charles' childhood parish) with a Celebration of Life to follow.