Gov. Brian Sandoval raised questions about the settlement after being told that Clark County, also a party to the case, wasn’t paying anything.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Brian Stockton told him the primary reason was that Clark County decided to settle after the district court ruled against the law restricting development on lands near Red Rock. In return, he said, Gypsum Resources agreed to waive the fees for Clark.
The state, he said, chose to appeal the verdict not only to the Nevada Supreme Court but federal court and lost again. At one point, Gypsum offered to settle during the appellate case. The state rejected the offer, thinking it had the best case.
“It sounds like Clark County walked away without paying a dollar,” Sandoval said.
Stockton said that was correct.
The landowner sued, arguing that the 2003 law backed by then-state Sen. Dina Titus, was unconstitutional because it imposed a special zoning restriction on the 2,400 acres near Red Rock that wasn’t imposed anywhere else in the state. The district court, Nevada Supreme Court and federal district court all agreed, tossing out the law.
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto questioned whether the state might be able to get a better deal by rejecting the settlement and fighting the attorney’s fees in federal court.
Stockton said he doubts the state would make much headway either against the $700-an-hour rate the judge ruled that lawyers for Gypsum should get, or in trying to make Clark County pay a share.
“I think it’s very unlikely,” he said
“It sounds like we’re blocked here,” said Sandoval, himself a former federal judge. “It’s tough to swallow because it’s a third of our tort fund.”
The money has to come out of the tort-claims fund, which has just $3.6 million in it this year to cover any damages the state gets hit with in the next 12 months.