Justice Michael Cherry

Justice Michael Cherry

Distinguished Fellow

Justice Michael Cherry's image

Justice Michael Cherry is a former Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court whose legal career spans more than 50 years, which includes serving more than 20 years as a member of the judiciary. In 2019, Justice Cherry retired from public service to focus on developing a private Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practice with a focus on complex matters at Advanced Resolution Management (ARM).

Justice Cherry received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri and his law degree from the Washington University Law School. He began his career as a Deputy Clark County Public Defender before becoming a partner in the law firms of Manos & Cherry and later Cherry Bailus & Kelesis where he practiced primarily in the areas of personal injury, family law, civil and criminal litigation and appeals on both the state and federal levels. His strong character and commitment to resolution lead to his appointment as a Special Master in two very high-profile cases that earned Justice Cherry national notoriety and the nickname “Master of Disaster.”

In 1981, Justice Cherry was appointed Special Master in the MGM Grand Hotel Fire Litigation that involved 87 deaths, more than 600 injured and millions in damages. It was a case that had international reach with lawyers from all over the world. There were 2,000 plaintiffs and several hundreds of defendants including MGM, suppliers, engineers, architects, chemical companies and elevator firms. In this role, Justice Cherry paved the way for how consumer cases, mass torts and disaster litigation would be handled today. He was also instrumental in settling the insurance bad faith claims when it was discovered that MGM Grand had negotiated a retroactive insurance policy because its existing policy was not enough. Subsequently in 1993, he was named Special Master on the Las Vegas Hilton Fire Litigation, another massive lawsuit with multi-million-dollar consequences.

In addition to his other work in the legal field, Justice Cherry served as an Alternate Municipal Judge for the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson, and as a Justice of the Peace Pro Tem as well as a Small Claims Referee for Clark County. He later added teaching to his very busy schedule, becoming an instructor for the University of Phoenix where he taught business law and history. In 1997, Justice Cherry closed his practice when he was appointed to lead the newly created Clark County Special Public Defender’s office where he led a staff of six attorneys who oversaw major homicide and conflict cases from the Clark County Public Defender’s Office.

In 1998, Justice Cherry was elected to serve as a Judge in the Eighth Judicial District Court. It was during this time that he worked alongside his colleagues Justice Nancy Saitta and the late Judge Allan Earl to establish the Construction Defect Court in response to entire subdivisions making claims on issues such as poor workmanship or the use of inferior materials. The justices implemented a system wherein they streamlined case management for construction defect and other voluminous cases.

Justice Cherry was elected to the Nevada Supreme Court in 2006. He quickly made a name for himself as Chair of the Indigent Defense Commission that examined how the justice system deals with criminal defendants who cannot afford their own attorneys. Then in 2012, Justice Cherry ran unopposed for a second 6-year term and served as Chief Justice from 2012 to 2013. It was during this time that he pushed for a much-needed appellate court. He was also instrumental in the building of the courtrooms and chambers for the Supreme Court of Nevada and Nevada Court of Appeals.

By the time Justice Cherry stepped into his second term as Chief Justice in 2017, Nevada had an Appellate Court, his decade long effort to improve indigent defense was a reality with the passing of Senate Bill 377, reforms to the guardianship system in Nevada as well as the creation of the Nevada Sentencing Commission. Upon his retirement, Justice Cherry had served 12 years in the Nevada Supreme Court and two terms as Chief Justice. Justice Cherry is presently a Senior Judge in the Nevada Courts and also serves as a Private Mediator, Arbitrator, Special Master, and Private Judge.