Jim Hartman: Nevada courts uphold rule of law

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman
Courtesy Photo

“Alternative facts” was a phrase introduced by President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, when she defended a false claim about attendance numbers at Trump’s 2017 inauguration.
Misleading claims, untruths, falsehoods and outright lies have become common practice on both sides of our warring political divide. For too many, there’s no such thing as objective truth or commonly accepted facts.
Many Democrats remain convinced the 2016 election was stolen by Russian hackers.
Ardent Trump Republicans believe the 2020 election was stolen with massive election fraud.
To their credit, Nevada judges and courts have demonstrated remarkable fealty to “rule of law” during this contentious past year. They have faithfully followed the law and facts, irrespective of partisan politics.
Last December, Carson City District Court Judge James T. Russell heard a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign and Nevada Republican Party. It made an unprecedented request to block certification of Joe Biden’s 33,596-vote victory in Nevada, or alternatively, award the state’s six electoral votes to Donald Trump.
In a 35-page order, Russell wrote he found evidence offered to have “little or no value,” based on questionable or “unsound” methodology, adding the case failed to show any “credible or reliable evidence that the 2020 General Election in Nevada was affected by fraud.”
The lawsuit claimed that Clark County’s use of an automated signature verification machine allowed fraudulent ballots to be counted and that tens of thousands of votes were cast by improper voters, including the deceased, non-state residents and noncitizens.
Russell concluded there was no proof that “any illegal votes were cast and counted, or legal votes were not counted at all” in an amount to raise reasonable doubt as to the outcome of the election.
Though not overtly political but a registered Republican, Russell is foremost a highly-respected, experienced district judge serving since 2007.
The Trump campaign nonetheless appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled unanimously (6-0) to dismiss the appeal, finding no serious errors in Russell’s decision. The Supreme Court’s three-page order noted no “unsupported factual findings” challenged under the appeal.
Prior to the decision, the Trump campaign sought to disqualify Justice James Hardesty from the case for bias, after he made favorable comments about Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.
Hardesty is a registered Democrat, but the seven state Supreme Court justices run for office without party affiliation. He joined all other members of the court in unanimously denying the challenge.
First elected district judge in 1998, Hardesty has a distinguished judicial career, serving on the Nevada Supreme Court since 2005.
During May, this same Nevada Supreme Court unanimously (7-0) ruled in favor of state Senate Republicans in a case setting clear limits on legislative efforts to avoid the state constitutional two-thirds majority for tax increases.
In a 2019 dispute, legislation extending payroll taxes and DMV fees passed the Senate by majority vote, but failed to win two-thirds support. Democrats and legislative counsel argued the two-thirds provision only applies to new or increased taxes – not to tax extensions.
Russell had sided with state Senate Republicans when he heard the case in 2020.
On May 13, the Supreme Court affirmed Russell’s ruling, finding the two revenue bills were unconstitutional and the district court was correct to bar their enforcement.
Hardesty wrote the Nevada Constitution requires agreement of at least two-thirds of each house of the Nevada Legislature to pass any bill “which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue.”
The “plain language” of the supermajority provision, Hardesty concluded, was violated making the tax bills unconstitutional.
Nevada courts have demonstrated impartial application of law, as free from partisan politics as practicable. Their decisions affirm rule of law.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. Email lawdocman1@aol.com.


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