A federal appeals court has affirmed a $2.1 million judgment against Lyon County and its former Public Administrator Richard Glover, accused of stealing from the home of a dead man in 2008.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the heirs of Joe Mathis, who was found dead at his home in Wellington.
Richard Mathis, administrator of the estate of his father, and other children maintained Glover took guns and other personal property worth $1 million from the home and converted them to his own use.
The appeals court said the heirs produced evidence at the district court, “That Glover did not photograph any of the Mathis property when he removed it, contrary to his routine practice, and hid some of the property in his warehouse, only revealing its location after his assistant informed the police.”
The law says the public administrator must “secure” the property after a death. The appeals court said some of the property wasn’t returned to the heirs.
The court said Glover and the county didn’t violate the constitutional right of privacy in entering the home after the death. “Owning residential property does not confer the same Fourth Amendment rights as living in it,” said the court in its decision Tuesday.
It quoted from another case which held the constitutional amendment protects people, not places. But the court said, “A warrantless seizure is per se unreasonable.”
The court ruled Lyon County was liable because “Glover was a final policymaker.”
The suit was brought by Richard Mathis of Las Vegas. He’s special administrator of the estate of his father. And the action was also brought in behalf of the other heirs who live in Las Vegas and out of state.
The decision upheld the awarding of attorney fees and 7 percent compound prejudgment interest.