Melvin Brunetti Papers

Identifier: 2002-09

Scope and Contents

Series 1 includes proposed recount guidelines, court pleadings and litigation, notes, and handwritten tallies of the 1974 recount. These notes from Brunetti incorporate case law and legal advice to Paul Laxalt on the election recount. Also included are newspaper clippings regarding Laxalt’s presidential bid as well as the recount.

Series 2 includes petitions to the Nevada Supreme Court by the Old College, as well as correspondence to and from Brunetti, case law and notes arguing against exemption for Old College graduates by the State Bar.

Series 3 consists of litigation taken by and against the State Bar of Nevada, minutes of meetings of the State Bar of Nevada, proposed amendments to Supreme Court Rules, and budgets and financial reports while Brunetti was President Elect and President are included. Correspondence from the American Bar Association and State Bar of Nevada publications and reports are incorporated. Federal Trade Commission overreach into the legal realm was one area of concern for the State Bar of Nevada in 1985. Reducing court backlog and advocating voluntary or mandatory arbitration was also a priority, which is reflected in these papers.


  • 1974-1986


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Melvin Brunetti was born in Reno, Nevada in 1933. Staying close to home, Brunetti graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a BS in Electrical Engineering. Following an unusual path to judgeship, Brunetti worked in the dairy industry for seven years before receiving his law degree from University of California, Hastings College of Law. Brunetti became a partner in the law firm of Laxalt, Bell, Berry Allison, and LeBaron. This partnership with Paul Laxalt would embroil Brunetti in the politics of Nevada, in which he played an important role.

In 1974, Brunetti represented Paul Laxalt during Laxalt’s Nevada senatorial race against then Lieutenant Governor Harry Reid. The seat was vacated by three term incumbent Democrat Alan Bible, who had decided to retire rather than seek another term. After votes were counted, Reid received just 624 fewer votes than Laxalt, spurring him to pursue a recount. Brunetti was intimately involved in the recount, which eventually confirmed winning results for Laxalt, who succeeded Alan Bible as senator. The final recount tally cut Laxalt’s margin of victory to 611 votes. Laxalt maintained that seat in the U.S. Senate until 1987, upon which time Reid filled Laxalt’s vacated seat and served as Senate Majority and Minority Whip and Leader until 2017.

Established in 1981 through the influence of John Leary, former president of Gonzaga University, the Nevada School of Law at Old College faced challenges from its beginning. It lacked accreditation from the American Bar Association due to facility and financial issues. State law prohibited practice of law without graduation from and American Bar Association (ABA) accredited school. Although Old College remained devoted to gaining accreditation, a petition to the Supreme Court in 1984 for the exemption of students to have graduated from an ABA accredited school failed on the basis of maintaining high standards of law practice in Nevada. Due to the failure, students were unable to sit for the Nevada Bar exam. The school ultimately folded in 1988. As a member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Nevada, and later President, Brunetti was intimately involved in regulations regarding who could sit for the bar exam. The State Bar of Nevada looked to block those Old College students from sitting for the bar based on the college’s lack of ABA accreditation.

Brunetti also served as President of the State Bar of Nevada in 1985 after serving as President-Elect in 1984. His term as President was complicated in part due to his appointment to the 9th Circuit Court by President Ronald Reagan. Unsure of his swearing in date as judge, Brunetti continued to serve as President through 1985.


6 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials



Melvin Brunetti served as a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge beginning in 1985, and also acted as attorney to Paul Laxalt during Laxalt’s Nevada senatorial race in 1974. Brunetti practiced law in Carson City and Reno and served as President of the State Bar of Nevada in 1985. Collection includes materials from the 1974 Laxalt/Reid Senatorial race recount. Other materials are from his tenure as President of the State Bar of Nevada, including his involvement with Nevada School of Law at Old College.


Arranged in the following series:

1) 1974 Nevada Senatorial Race Recount; 2) Old College Accreditation; 3) State Bar of Nevada Board of Governors

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Melvin Brunetti in December 2002.

  • State Bar of Nevada correspondence
Guide to the Melvin Brunetti Papers
Jacquelyn Sundstrand and Aaron Scheuermann
August 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)