James G. Sweeney - Democrat - Silver Party, Elected

13th Nevada Attorney General

Term:  January 5, 1903 - January 7, 1907


James G. Sweeney, born in Carson City, Nevada, on January 24, 1877, and educated in the public schools of Carson City, graduated from St. Mary's College, Oakland, California, with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  He returned to Carson City; studied law; and at the age of 21, gained admittance to the Nevada State Bar on July 30, 1898.  He entered Columbia Law University at Washington, D. C., and graduated with high honors.

In 1900, at the age of 24, voters elected Sweeney as a member of the Nevada State Assembly to represent Ormsby County in the 20th Nevada State Legislative Session, 1901.

On December 14, 1902, Sweeney married Miss Mable Trembath, the accomplished daughter of Hugh Trembath, of Virginia City, Nevada.[1]

After his service as Nevada Attorney General, voters elected Sweeney as a Nevada Supreme Court Associate Justice on November 6, 1906.  Sweeney later served as Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court until illness forced him to retire in 1913.

Election of 1902

Elected as Nevada’s thirteenth Attorney General on November 4, 1902, Sweeney (Silver-Democrat[2]) received 6,268 (56.6%) votes of the 12,338 votes cast, and Samuel Platt (Republican) received 4,797 (43.4%) votes.

Office Administration and Duties

During Sweeney’s term, the 1905 Nevada State Legislature authorized the Nevada Attorney General’s Office to hire its first full-time staff employee at the annual salary of $1,800 per year. [3]   Margaret Sweeney, who happened to be Mr. Sweeney’s younger sister by three years, served as his stenographer.

The Attorney General of Nevada is hereby authorized to employ a stenographic clerk, whose compensation shall be seventy-five dollars per month . . . this act shall take effect immediately [approved February 9, 1905]

(1905 Statutes of Nevada, Chapter V, Section 1, Page 19).

Except for the stenographer’s salary, Sweeney had no deputies according to the Attorney General’s budgets for the 1903–1905 and 1905–1907 state fiscal biennial periods:

1903–1905 Budget




Attorney General’s Salary



For current expenses for telegraph, postal, and contingent expenses for the State officers, Supreme Court, and State Library, and for transportation of State property, $3,600

1905–1907 Budget




Attorney General’s Salary



Stenographer Salary



For current expenses for telegraph, postal, and contingent expenses for the State officers, Supreme Court, and State Library, and for transportation of State property, $4,000

Although the Attorney General was not given an additional duties by the 1903 Nevada State Legislature, the 1905 Legislature did add one additional duty:

  • The Attorney general is to approve the title of the land purchased by the state for an, “. . . Agricultural Experimental Farm in the Southeastern part of this State . . .”

(Statutes of Nevada 1905, Chapter XXXIX, Page 59).

[1] A History of the State of Nevada, Lewis Publishing, 1904, pp. 380–384.
[2] Democrat–Silver or Silver–Democrats, terms used at various times after 1878, referred to those members of the Democratic Party who advocated replacing the gold standard with a policy of bimetallism.  The Silver Democrats believed that the free coinage of silver at a ratio of sixteen to one would inflate prices and thus relieve the burden on the nation's depressed farmers.  More general use of the term "Silver Democrats" followed the 1893 inauguration of President Grover Cleveland, a Gold Democrat, and his support for repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890.
[3] Mrs. Sweeney’s salary remained at $75 per month, from the time of the enactment of this legislation, February 9, 1905, until the general appropriations’ bill, on July 1, 1905, increased her stenographer’s salary to $1,800 per year.

    • James G. Sweeney - Nevada Historical Society