Secretary of state says lawyers’ challenge of ballot question too late |

Secretary of state says lawyers’ challenge of ballot question too late

The Secretary of State’s Office said the trial lawyers’ latest challenge of the “Keep Our Doctors in Nevada” initiative is a rehash of their August challenge, and was filed too late.

The initiative seeks to limit financial awards to people in medical malpractice cases and to limit what lawyers can get from those lawsuits.

Secretary Dean Heller’s Chief of Staff Renee Parker said Thursday they were surprised Wednesday when ordered to respond to the petition within 24 hours because they hadn’t even received notice the lawyers had challenged the pro-initiative arguments.

Their response filed Thursday said much of the petition repeats the same claims about Question 3 that the Supreme Court rejected Aug. 23.

The response by Parker and Deputy Attorney General Vicki Oldenburg charges the lawyers’ “delay in filing and serving their petition is not only prejudicial to respondent, but renders the requested relief impossible.”

That was backed up by an affidavit from Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax stating that most of the sample ballots containing the questions are already printed.

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The brief says the lawyers knew as early as Aug. 26 exactly what was in the pro-and-con arguments approved by Heller’s office – and were told county election officials would send them to the printers as soon as possible.

“Yet no challenge was filed until September 14, 2004.”

The brief argues the secretary followed all applicable laws in having supporters and opponents draft their arguments on the ballot question – and rebuffed the petition’s challenge of the estimated cost of the initiative, pointing out that it was drafted by the Legislative Counsel Bureau Fiscal Division.

Parker said the trial lawyers’ association disagrees with what supporters wrote in their argument supporting the ballot question, but that both pro- and con- arguments on the ballot are just that – arguments for voters to consider when making a choice.

“What they want the court to do is let them write the pro- argument as well as the con,” she said. “If they do, the court will be letting the voters hear only one side of the argument.”

The lawyers object to claims in the “pro-” argument, including that physicians are leaving Nevada “at an alarming rate.”

Kathleen Murphy Jones, who chaired the committee opposing the petition, said opponents want Question 3 removed from the November ballot because it is inaccurate and misleading.