About Justin Champagne

Let me tell you a short story to illustrate my background, and why I’m running to be a judge in the Reno Municipal Court.

A few years ago my dad called me while I was eating dinner. There was a man in his house working on his alarm system, and he’d seen my dad’s last name and asked if he was related to me.

I met this man, “Mike,” in the Washoe County Jail. He’d just been arrested, and I was his public defender. He was facing prison time and a felony conviction for his 3rd DUI in 7 years. Staring down real time like that, he was pale, scared, and smelled like a dive bar’s… floor. I remember how different he’d looked three years later when he graduated from the DUI program – clean, determined, but perhaps also a little scared still.

And here he was, years later with a good job and a family, doing a great job for my dad while telling him how my help had saved his life all those years ago by getting him into the DUI court.

This kind of coincidental meeting is still common in Reno, especially for someone like me who was a public defender for 15 years. This story, and so many of those meetings over the years, constantly affirm my belief in community-focused justice.

Beyond supporting the existing programs to help people turn their lives around, we need judges who will continue to innovate and find additional ways to support our community. As the first public defender in that DUI court set up under Judge Breen, I have experience working out the kinks of a new program, and then the incredible examples of how that program turned people’s lives around. I also have the wonderful example, from Judge Breen, of how to treat all different types of people and cases, and how tolerance and diversion only work if there is also the appropriate application of consequences. If elected, I would look for opportunities for our courts to continue to improve and evolve to serve justice, and our community, to the highest level.

This is what drives me to run for municipal court judge. I hope I can earn your vote.

    Personal Background

    I enjoy sharing my love of the law by serving as an assistant coach for both the Mock Trial and We the People teams at Reno High School.  It is incredibly satisfying to see these young minds grow as they learn about our constitution and legal systems.

    I have also served as a polling place manager for the Washoe County Registrar of Voters since 2008, and have loved being able to be an integral part in fair and open elections in Washoe County.  

    I love spending time with my family, and we love to spend time outside hiking, golf, biking, skiing, and traveling.  My wife, Suzi, and I have been married for 27 years and we have two wonderful grown children, Madeline and Ethan.

    Professional Background

    Bachelor’s Degree, University of Nevada, Journalism

    J.D., University of Utah College of Law, graduating in 1999.

    Law Clerk for the Honorable Jerome Polaha, Washoe County District Court,  1999-2001

    Washoe County Public Defender’s Office, 2001- 2016.

    • Worked in virtually every section of the office, including general felony and misdemeanor felony defense, juvenile delinquency defense, mental health commitments, and every Specialty Court offered in Washoe County.  
    • Instrumental in initiating and developing the Washoe County Felony DUI Court, which helped defendants with severe drug and alcohol addictions engage in long-term treatment and court supervision, ensuring that they drove safely and legally while aiding in their recovery from these addictions.  
    • Served as the program attorney for the Early Case Resolution program, working directly with the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office to resolve cases as quickly as possible after a defendant’s arrest. Resolving cases early helps save time and money for both individuals who come to court, and our courts and taxpayers at large.

    Reno City Attorney’s Office, 2017-2020

    • Prosecuted all types of criminal offenses in the Reno Municipal Court.  During this time, I developed by abiding love for the Municipal Court system.  It is truly the “People’s Court” handling all types of criminal offenses, ranging from traffic violations to serious domestic battery cases.

    Private practice in criminal defense, 2020-present

    Judge Pro Tem (substitute judge) 2020-present

    I have worked as a substitute judge for each of the current judges in the Reno Municipal court.  I have presided over every type of docket in Reno Municipal Court, including trial dockets, traffic court, and video arraignments from the Washoe County Jail.  I have also had the privilege of presiding over 2 different Specialty Courts, the Fresh Start Court and the Co-Occurring Disorders Court.  Each of these specialty courts deals with clients suffering from substance abuse issues, mental health problems, or both.  Clients are guided through treatment including one-on-one and group therapy, self-help groups, and pro-social community activities.  Through these Specialty Courts,, clients are given a great chance to get a handle on their problems and become more productive citizens and better individuals and family members.  It is an excellent opportunity to have a direct influence on these clients and allow them to help themselves.