Nevada Supreme Court justice stumps for creating state appeals court

A Nevada Court of Appeals would cut delays that result in justice being denied, save litigants time and money, and avoid additional judicial bureaucracy, a state Supreme Court justice said Tuesday.

Justice James W. Hardesty, speaking at the Carson Nugget to Carson City’s Rotary Club, urged voter approval Nov. 4 of Question One, the state constitutional amendment to establish a three-member court to take a load off the state’s highest court. Hardesty said that would allow the state Supreme Court to concentrate on precedent-setting cases. Such major cases are complex, he said.

“They are not simple questions, and they take a lot of time,” he said. Examples, he explained, are such major matters as capital crimes dealing with the death penalty or election challenges such as the recent case on term limits dealing with Reno’s municipal council and mayoral term limits. He said other matters can include cases involving up to $1.2 billion, noting business and family law require timely judgment and predictability.

Yet under the state’s Constitution, he said, smaller cases that don’t involve precedent or hold potential to correct error come to the highest judicial place because it is the only appellate opportunity for hearing ongoing disputes. For example, he said, Department of Motor Vehicles license revocations can be appealed there.

“The Nevada state Supreme Court is the busiest state supreme court in the country,” he said. Yet the proposed constitutional change isn’t to establish an intermediate court of appeals; the appeals court would work on a “push-down” basis. The highest court would cull those non-precedent-setting cases and send them to the appeals unit.

Hardesty estimated 70 percent of the cases would be heard by the three-judge appeals court, said the projected operational cost is just $1.5 million annually, “and there’s no judicial bureaucracy.” He also said the Nevada Legislature approved the program on a bipartisan basis. Gov. Brian Sandoval, formerly a federal judge and before that the state’s attorney general, also supports the plan, said the justice.

Hardesty said a similar attempt in 2010 failed when it won approval only in Las Vegas-Clark County, but was rejected in the rest of the state. He said that is why there is a push this year in the northern part of Nevada to win support. Hardesty said the state’s 1854 Constitution provided a court system that worked back then.

“It doesn’t today,” he said.


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