2013 Legislature: Senate panel approves appeals court measure

A Senate panel took quick action Tuesday to try to establish an intermediate appeals court in Nevada — a proposal last rejected by voters in the 2010 election.The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SJR14. The proposed constitutional amendment would set up an intermediate appeals court to ease the growing caseload in the Nevada Supreme Court. It now goes to the full Senate.Nevada's high court saw 2,500 cases filed in 2012. Cases per justice totaled 357, the highest in the nation in states without an appellate court.Justice James Hardesty told committee members that rules would be set up on the types of cases the intermediate court would hear, such as pro-per actions that don't involve a lawyer or review of driver license revocations. In most instances the appellate court's action would be the last appeal available to litigants unless the Supreme Court agreed to review the case. He said the appellate court would be structured on a “push down” model, where all appeals would be filed with the Supreme Court, which would then assign certain types of cases to the intermediary court.Hardesty, who testified in support of the bill along with Chief Justice Kris Pickering, said the appeals panel would handle 700-800 cases a year, greatly reducing the workload of Nevada's seven Supreme Court justices. Even then, the high court would still expect 1,600 to 1,800 cases a year.The benefit, Hardesty said, would be quicker resolution of cases. It would also allow the high court to issue more advanced opinions — major rulings that set legal precedent in the state.“The need for published opinions is staggering,” he said. Justices said advance opinions require a lot more research and staff time, so often the court in an effort to clear its caseload will issue a ruling instead.Hardesty said the appeals court would cost about $1.7 million in operating costs — most of the expense attributed to salaries of judges, clerks and staff. The court would use existing court facilities in northern and southern Nevada.SRJ14 was approved by the 2011 Legislature. If passed this year, it will go to voters in 2014.If approved by voters, the first three appellate judges would be appointed for two-year terms beginning in January 2015. The seats would then be up for election every six years.


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