Chief Justice Bill Maupin told legislators Wednesday that cooperation among branches of government must continue as Nevada copes with overcrowded prisons, jammed court dockets, endangered foster children and "malignant" growth of methamphetamine use.
In his "State of the Judiciary" speech to lawmakers, Maupin said more qualified, experienced judges and updated courthouses are needed, along with improved prison facilities and expanded noncustodial programs.
Maupin said judges should have more discretion in sentencing, and authorities should ensure dangerous inmates remain locked up but should be open to "highly conditioned" releases of other criminals who aren't public-safety threats.
The chief justice also endorsed Justice Jim Hardesty's proposal to deport hundreds of inmates held in Nevada prisons who were in the country illegally when they committed their crimes. Hardesty has said that could the state about $10 million annually.
Maupin also urged legislators to make a "considerable" funding commitment to the state's specialty courts, saying the courts can play a major role in getting meth addicts "out of the revolving door of the criminal justice system."
State and local governments also must fund more attorney positions to represent foster children, Maupin said, mentioning recent reports of deaths and injuries of such children. He added Nevada law should spell out a right to legal representation for such children.
Maupin also said lawmakers need to provide funding for a new courthouse in Ely, where an old courthouse now handles cases involving inmates from the state's maximum-security Ely State Prison. He said dangerous inmate defendants sit in a witness box in the existing courtroom "within arms' reach" of some jurors.