Nevada urgently needs an appellate court

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Nevada voters face a plethora of ballot measures this year ranging from a tax initiative that levies an additional 2 percent on a firm’s gross sales of $1 million or more to the creation of an appellate court.

As the Battle Born state continues to grow, so do the number of appeal cases sent to the Nevada Supreme Court and the increasing caseload is frustrating both attorneys and jurists alike. Approximately 53 percent of Nevada voters defeated a similar ballot question in the 2010 election to create a state intermediate appeals court.

Since that time, the number of cases appealed to the Nevada’s Supreme Court keep increasing.

Nevada Supreme Court justices have the highest per-justice caseloads of any state supreme court in the country. Because of high number of cases appealed to the state’s highest court, delays have occurred, some cases taking as long as one year or more to be heard. Nevada is only one of 10 states that does not have an appellate court.

It is critical for Nevadans to approve an appellate court during the 2014 election cycle.

Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty said it is important to inform Nevadans why an appellate court is critical to the state.

“The Nevada Supreme Court is the only appellate court in the system and we get every case out of the district court system,” Hardesty said. “There is simply no way the court can keep up with the case load.”

The current backlog of cases, he said, is more than 2,200.

“We can’t provide a timely or efficient resolution on appeal,” Hardesty added.

For example, in fiscal year 2012, justices resolved only 2,270 with 1,990 pending cases. The ballot question seeks to create a three-judge panel between the district courts and the Supreme Court and would relieve the high court from handling a huge load of lesser cases.

Divorces and appeals of drivers’ license revocations, for example, are important to those involved, they aren’t precedent-setting issues of law the high court should be discussing.

A facility is already in place in both Carson City and Las Vegas to accommodate the Court of Appeals; furthermore, the Supreme Court turns back upward to $2 million annually from it budget, so that money could be used to fund the judges and their staffs, which would be shared with the Supreme Court.

Through careful budgeting with the returned money, the state, therefore, would be able to fund a Court of Appeals as long as the system uses coexisting buildings, clerks and office staff.

Additionally, the governor would appoint the three Court of Appeals justices to two-year terms, and afterward, the voters would elect the jurists to six-year terms.

Churchill County District Attorney Art Mallory knows how appeal cases jam up the system.

“We have had cases take as long as 18 months to get a decision,” he said. “If it helps to get a decision faster and at very little cost, then this is a good thing.”

“It’s up to the voters to decide on the Court of Appeals,” Mallory said, who said he prefers the appellate court to adding three justices. “Efficiency will be better addressed by the Court of Appeals than adding the judges.”

The judicial landscape has change tremendously since Nevada has experienced enormous growth for the past 30 years, causing the state’s population to double, while the courts did not keep up with the growth.

Since establishing an appellate court would not result in additional money and services would be shared, Nevadans would benefit greatly to have their appeals heard in an expedient manner.

For these reasons, we strongly urge Nevadans to approve Question 1 this year’s ballot to approve an appellate court for Nevada.

Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.


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