By Nathan Brantley and Rocio Hernandez
On Nov. 4, Nevadans will vote on whether the state should establish a court of appeals. This state-wide issue has found its way to the University of Nevada, Reno.
The Associated Students of the University of Nevada passed a resolution, last Wednesday evening, in full support of an affirmative vote to approve the creation of an appellate court system in the state of Nevada. According to the resolution written by Sen. Anthony Ramirez and Sen. Quinn Jonas, there is a need to provide the residents of Nevada with a timely method of appeals within court systems.
“If our justice systems could be more efficient that would make our state ultimately more productive,” said Madeline Burak, ASUN director of legislative affairs.
Nevada Supreme Court justices see an average of 333 cases per year because every appeal must be heard by the council. The American Bar Association recommends that any state Supreme Court justice caseload should not exceed 100 cases a year.
Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty said it could be three years before the Nevada Supreme Court hears a case if this system doesn’t change.
“In our state at the appellate level, interest is being delayed and thus justice is being denied,” said Hardesty.
According to Jonas, the slow turnover of Supreme Court cases could prevent the state from attracting more companies such as Tesla in the future.
“It dissuades businesses from wanting to enter Nevada because no logical business owner or manager will allow major parts of their businesses three years in a case backlog for a ruling,” Jonas said.
Hardesty also stated that the cases responsible for slowing down the decisions process are often more minor cases in relation to the general public.
“Currently, the state supreme court’s caseload is bogged down by license notifications and dress condition disputes,” said Hardesty. “These are cases that are better addressed by a court of appeals.”
Nevadans for a Court of Appeals is a coalition formed in support of an appellate court in the state of Nevada. This group states the Silver State has the largest population of the 10 states without a court of appeals.
This will be the third time Nevadan voters will be asked to approve the creation of this court. It is the first question on November’s ballot.
Hardesty believes this campaign comes down to educating voters.
The campaign has been reformed for this vote with the creation of a coalition that will finance public education of the issue. This outreach has been extended to the ABA, which has presented this issue to public service organizations who in turn will educate their members.
According to Hardesty, if approved, the appellate court would cost roughly $1-2 million. Hardesty said most of the cost will be covered by the 2014-2015 state’s general fund; that has already been approved by the state legislature. The court will also use existing infrastructure to lessen its cost.
The appellate court would be located in the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. Clark County, of which Las Vegas is a part, accounts for 75 percent of the Nevada Supreme Court’s workload. However, it will hear cases from across the state.
Political science professor Eric Herzik stated that it is up to voters to decide whether this will benefit the legal system and to pass it or to fail it once again.
“Nevada has considered an appellate court before and it was turned down largely for cost and largely for a lack of trust in the courts,” Herzik said. “Nevada Supreme Court has the heaviest caseload in the nation, whether a solution is an intermediate court is for the voters to decide.”
Nathan Brantley and Rocio Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.