Fed court rejects Nevada tax conspiracy claim
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday rejected conspiracy claims by splinter political parties, conservative groups and others opposed to a record $836 million Nevada tax plan.
U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson said Joel Hansen, an Independent American Party activist and lawyer representing the groups, based his claim on a newspaper column suggesting the governor, two Supreme Court justices and some lawmakers conspired to get the tax plan passed.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Vin Suprynowicz wrote that a retired Nevada judge told him that lawmakers didn’t need to budge on the tax bill because “the fix is in.” The paper later refused to withdraw Suprynowicz’ column, terming it “a fair characterization of what he heard.”
“Basing an entire complaint on a mysterious uncited source would be like building a house of straw hoping to find some bricks later,” Dawson wrote in his 5-page order.
The judge added that the article amounted to “double hearsay” and Hansen would have to show it had a “circumstantial guarantee of trustworthiness” to get it introduced as evidence.
“Unsupported newspaper articles usually do not suffice under this standard,” Dawson said.
Dawson also said Hansen inappropriately tried to contact him by phone, adding, “The irony of counsel accusing Gov. (Kenny) Guinn and justices of the Nevada Supreme Court of similar conduct is not lost on this court.”
Hansen said he had no independent evidence to support his claim that Guinn and Justices Bob Rose and Miriam Shearing made a deal to push through tax hikes. But he said the Review-Journal’s refusal to retract the column gave it validity.
The allegation was made after the governor asked the Supreme Court to help resolve a budget impasse. The court then told lawmakers to quickly pass a tax bill without a constitutionally required two-thirds majority vote. The final plan was approved — barely — by two-thirds of the legislators.
A Guinn spokesman, Rose and Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said the allegations of a conspiracy are absurd.
Hansen’s original lawsuit was filed after Nevada’s federal judges dismissed a complaint brought by anti-tax lawmakers claiming the Supreme Court’s ruling was unconstitutional. The lawmakers have appealed that ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hansen then filed an amended complaint listing seven citizen and political groups and about 300 people whom he said were outraged by the court’s ruling.
The groups include the IAP, the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, Nevada Eagle Forum, Nevada Coalition for Immigration Reform, the Libertarian Party of Nevada and the Nevada Republican Liberty Caucus.