Matthew Harter Obituary, Death – On Wednesday, a Clark County Family Court judge died after 14 years on the court. According to the county coroner’s office, Judge Mathew Harter, who presided over Family Court Department N, died at University Medical Center shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday. He was 56. According to the coroner’s office, Harter’s official cause and manner of death were still unknown. In a statement made Wednesday night by attorney Steve Dixon, Harter’s family recommended anybody “struggling with mental health difficulties to seek immediate care from loved ones and trained doctors.”
Dixon went on to say that Harter’s widow requested that the suicide prevention hotline number be included in articles about her husband’s death. “At this awful moment, we are tremendously grieved by the death of our beloved husband, father, and friend,” Harter’s family wrote in a statement. “We are grateful for so many relatives and friends’ love and support, including attorneys and other members of the judiciary with whom he worked.”
In a memo sent to his colleagues on Wednesday afternoon, Chief District Judge Jerry Wiese told them of Harter’s death. “It is with great regret that I notify you that Judge Harter passed away today,” Wiese said in an email obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Wiese did not go into detail about Harter’s death. “Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers,” the chief judge wrote. Harter was appointed to the bench in 2008, re-elected in 2014, and ran unopposed for re-election in 2020. He also served as an arbitrator in District Court from 2004 to 2008. He campaigned unsuccessfully for the Nevada Supreme Court against Lidia Stiglich in 2018.
Harter described his judicial nominees as “conservative” and “textualist” while vying for the Supreme Court. In the Las Vegas Review-2018 Journal voter guide, Harter stated that he has always wanted to serve on the bench in his home state. Harter’s death surprised Louis Schneider, a family law attorney who had known him for 16 years. “A lot of individuals will be injured as a result of this,” he said.
Harter was born in Reno and has lived in Las Vegas since he was a toddler, according to his biography on the District Court website. He is a father of eight children and one grandson. According to the Review-2018 Journal’s voter guide, Harter graduated from Bonanza High School in 1984 before attending UNLV and Western Michigan University’s law school. Harter received a retention score of 71% in the Judicial Performance Evaluation of the Evaluation-2013 Journal, but by the 2019 review, that proportion had dropped to 48%, indicating that the majority of responding attorneys that year felt he should not be retained.
The judge informed the newspaper at the time that the lower score could have been the result of a smear campaign by the president of Veterans in Politics International. “Marshal Bill” Datthyn was Harter’s best friend, the judge informed the Review-Journal shortly after his friend died. Datthyn, a deputy marshal, drowned in Harter’s courtroom in 2017. Schneider went on to say that Harter had a photograph of Datthyn in his courtroom and that his death had caused him grief for many years. According to the attorney, Harter was a serious but fair judge with a “fantastic poker face” in court. Schneider called him “a good man, a genuinely nice guy.”