Supreme Court sets date for term limit challenges

CARSON CITY " The Nevada Supreme Court moved quickly Wednesday to try to resolve confusion over the state's term-limits requirement, scheduling a June 13 meeting to map out a schedule for filing legal briefs and hearing attorneys' arguments on the issue.

The Friday the 13th session in Las Vegas also will focus on ballot initiative disputes that the high court is likely to wind up resolving this election year.

"We hope we can resolve the issues and still keep the election process on track if our expedited schedule is followed," Chief Justice Mark Gibbons said.

The session, described by Gibbons as unprecedented "mass case management," was scheduled a day after Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto asked for clarification on the status of veteran officials who have served for 12 or more years and are seeking re-election.

Masto filed an emergency petition on behalf of Secretary of State Ross Miller, who has challenged 21 re-election candidates on grounds they've reached the 12-year limit for time in office. Miller's challenges affect candidates in a dozen of Nevada's 17 counties.

The petition seeks an order to require district attorneys in Clark, Washoe and Churchill counties to carry out the challenges. Besides those prosecutors, district attorneys in Lyon and Douglas counties also say they won't seek to enforce the candidate challenges.

A second petition to the high court is being prepared by attorneys for Steve Sisolak, the state university-college system regent seeking a seat on the Clark County Commission held by longtime commissioner Bruce Woodbury. Sisolak says Woodbury should be blocked from running again because he has served on that panel since 1981.

The filings don't challenge the constitutionality of the term limits, although they could provide a way for foes of the limits approved by voters in 1996 to join in the litigation and argue that the restrictions should be tossed out.

Part of the argument in both cases is that the Supreme Court's prompt attention to the controversy is needed because of the clashing views of district attorneys around the state regarding Miller's challenges.

Also, some of the challenged officials, ranging from well-known county commissioners and regents to a longtime member of a rural mosquito and weed abatement board, face Aug. 12 primary elections. Masto said the officials need to know the final candidate list, and ballot preparation must be completed quickly.

Miller contends that most public officials elected or re-elected in 1996 have reached the limit, under the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1996. Legislators are excluded since they take office the day after November elections " and the clock on the limit didn't start running in 1996 until a few weeks later when an official vote canvass was taken.


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