Posts Tagged ‘Nevada Supreme Court’

Nevada Supreme Court Hears Margins Tax Case

By Sean Whaley | 11:37 am December 5th, 2012

Attorneys for the teachers association and state business interests faced off before the Nevada Supreme Court today over whether a proposed margins tax initiative petition has met legal requirements and so should be submitted to the 2013 Legislature.

A Carson City district court judge earlier this year said the petition filed by the Nevada State Education Association to establish a 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year was invalid because the 200 word “description of effect” was incomplete. It did not specify how much revenue the tax would generate, said Judge James Wilson in a ruling in October.

A group called The Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs challenged the petition. The teachers association appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the dispute today. The court, which met in Las Vegas, will rule later on the matter.

Nevada Supreme Court.

Despite the lower court ruling, the association last month turned in 152,000 signatures, more than double the required number to qualify the petition for consideration by the Legislature.

If the petition is found by the court to have satisfied state legal requirements, the Nevada Legislature will be required to take up the proposal when it convenes in February. The Legislature would then have 40 days to approve the proposal or it would go to the voters in 2014.

The proposed Texas-style margins tax would raise an estimated $800 million a year for public education.

Justice Ron Parraguirre asked whether it is a material effect that a business could face a loss and still be required to pay the tax.

“Isn’t that a material effect that ought to be disclosed?” he said.

Francis Flaherty, attorney for the teachers, told the court the backers of the measure should not be subjected to a “judicial slot machine” where decisions on what to include in the description are subjected to second guessing by the judiciary.

“You’ve only got 200 words,” he said.

Flaherty called the petition “core political speech” that the Supreme Court has said in previous rulings it must do “everything in its power to uphold.”

Justice Michael Douglas asked attorney Josh Hicks, representing The Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, how the court is expected to pick and chose what to include in the description given the complexity of the proposal, which totals 22,000 words.

Hicks said the 200-word description could very easily be written to be accurate for those asked to sign the petition. He said an accurate description is a fundamental protection to ensure potential signers of the petition know what the measure would do. There is no guarantee that the tax proposal will generate any additional money for public education, which is a material fact that should have been disclosed, he told the court.


Audio clips:

Attorney Francis Flaherty says the description of effect satisfies state law:

120512Flaherty :14 got 200 words.”

Attorney Josh Hicks says there are no guarantees the proposal will increase education funding:

120512Hicks :23 change in it.”




Carson Judge Will Rule Later On Challenge To Teacher-Backed Margin Tax Petition

By Sean Whaley | 10:59 am October 12th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A Carson City District Judge today heard the latest challenge to a teacher-backed initiative petition that seeks to levy a 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year to raise money to support public education.

But Judge James Wilson did not immediately rule on challenges to the “Education Initiative” filed by the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs.

Carson City District Judge James Wilson.

Josh Hicks, an attorney representing the committee, said regardless of how Wilson rules, the legal issues raised in the court hearing will likely be taken to the Nevada Supreme Court for a final ruling.

In the meantime, the Nevada State Education Association is continuing to gather signatures to qualify the measure for submission to the Legislature in 2013.

Gary Peck, executive director of the association, said between 55,000 and 60,000 signatures have been collected so far from registered voters to qualify the petition. The group has until Nov. 13 to collect a minimum of 72,352 signatures to take the measure to lawmakers. The Legislature would then have 40 days to approve the proposal or it would go to the voters in 2014.

The proposed Texas-style margins tax would raise an estimated $800 million a year for public education.

“We remain confident that at the end of the day, the initiative is going to withstand this legal challenge,” Peck said. “We are certainly going to continue to gather signatures. We have received enthusiastic widespread support from the public.

“We have a study, conducted by Applied Analysis, that shows the costs that would be associated with failing to properly invest in K-12 education here in Nevada,” he said. “And I think the general public understands that if we want to have a thriving diverse economy where we have the kind of high-skilled workforce that we need to attract businesses, we need to be investing in our public schools. And we don’t do that.”

Hicks raised several legal issues during the brief court hearing, challenging whether the petition conforms to requirements that it deal with a single subject and if it offers a clear explanation about what it does. He questioned whether the 200-word description of effect adequately explains to those signing the petition what it would do.

Wilson said he too has concerns about the description of effect.

Francis Flaherty, attorney for the teachers, rejected Hick’s concerns.

“There is nothing hidden in this initiative, your honor,” he said.


Audio clips:

Teachers Association Executive Director Gary Peck says he is confident the initiative petition will be upheld:

101212Peck1 :21 from the public.”

Peck says the association has a study showing the consequences of not properly investing in public education:

101212Peck2 :30 don’t do that.”


Think Tank Files Legal Brief To Pursue Separation-Of-Powers Case Aimed At State Lawmakers In Public Jobs

By Sean Whaley | 4:21 pm July 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A libertarian think tank’s legal team has filed an opening brief in a case before the state Supreme Court seeking to pursue its separation-of-powers lawsuit aimed at state lawmakers who also work in state government jobs.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation (CJCL) filed the brief Friday in its case Pojunis v. State of Nevada, et al. – a lawsuit brought to restore adherence to the separation-of-powers clause found in Article 3, Section 1 of Nevada’s constitution. It named then-state employee and current state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

Nevada state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

Shortly after the complaint was filed in November 2011, Denis announced his resignation from his computer technician job with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

Carson City District Court Judge James Russell then ruled the case was made moot by Denis’ resignation.

The CJCL is seeking to have the case reinstated by the Nevada Supreme Court, citing other lawmakers working in state or even local government jobs that could be affected by a decision in the matter.

Joseph Becker, chief legal officer and director of CJCL, said: “NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation is appealing this case to the Nevada Supreme Court because the separation-of-powers clause at issue in this case is the same clause that the Nevada Supreme Court has written “is probably the most important single principle of government declaring and guaranteeing the liberties of the people.”

While the interpretation of the separation-of-powers clause may be moot in Denis’ case, Becker is arguing there is a compelling public interest in having the case resolved.

The separation-of-powers clause “makes it perfectly clear that a sitting legislator cannot hold a job in the executive or judicial branch of government, and yet, there are at least 14 conflicting attorney general’s opinions on this issue and no fewer than six current legislators who also hold jobs in the executive or judicial branch of state government,” Becker said.

Even Gov. Sandoval has asked the Supreme Court to “[s]ettle it once and for all,” he said.

“Upholding the constitution’s separation-of-powers clause is a fundamental and ‘public’ legal issue, and we urge the Nevada Supreme Court to let this case proceed,” Becker said.

The lawsuit was filed by the CJCL on behalf of Las Vegas resident William Pojunis, who said at the time he was unemployed and was qualified for Denis’ position and wanted to apply for the job.

In his district court filing seeking dismissal, Denis’ attorney said case law shows that Nevada courts only decide “cases that present live controversies.”

“Courts will not retain jurisdiction where ‘a live controversy becomes moot by the occurrence of subsequent events,’ and ‘will not make legal determinations that cannot affect the outcome of the case,’ ” said Denis attorney Bradley Schrager.

Nevada Republican Party Opposes Emergency High Court Intervention In Court-Run Redistricting Process

By Sean Whaley | 7:26 pm October 24th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Attorneys for the Nevada Republican Party today filed a brief with the Nevada Supreme Court opposing Secretary of State Ross Miller’s emergency petition seeking to intervene on the question of the authority of the courts to decide the state’s political boundaries instead of the Legislature.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Miller on whether it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.

In a brief in opposition to Miller, Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison called the petition moot since the special masters appointed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell worked quickly to submit proposed maps redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

Special redistricting masters, from left, Bob Erickson, Thomas Sheets and Alan Glover. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“In short, the District Court action is proceeding apace, and the court will be in a position to issue final plans during, and perhaps even before, the beginning of November 2011,” the filing says. “This timeline provides ample time for any appeal to be heard and decided by this court well in advance of upcoming election deadlines. As such, petitioner’s original grounds for seeking this writ effectively are moot in light of subsequent events and, for this and other reasons set forth more fully below, the emergency petition should be denied.”

Russell will hold a hearing Thursday to consider the maps submitted Oct. 14 by the three special masters.

Hutchison, in a late filing by the deadline today to the proposed political districts submitted by the special masters, identified a few concerns in the proposed maps.

“Despite the special masters’ largely successful performance of their duties, the court has charged the parties to identify any legal errors with the proposed maps. Legal errors do exist in the current maps, but they are few,” the filing said.

One concern cited by Hutchison is the Senate District 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. He argues in the filing the district is irregularly shaped and not compact.

There is also a concern cited about Senate District 6, now held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, as drawn favoring Democrats where it has historically been a Republican seat.

Following two public hearings on Oct. 10 and 11, the court-appointed special masters filed their proposed maps three days later. Before the maps were filed Oct. 14, Hutchison issued a statement that said the party had faith in the panel to submit fair maps.

“Creating fair districts for both elected legislators and the public has been the goal of the Republicans since the beginning of the 2011 legislative session,” the statement said.

As to Miller’s underlying argument that it is the Legislature’s duty to perform the redistricting process, Hutchison said in his filing with the Supreme Court that he agrees the Nevada constitution entrusts the task of redistricting to the Legislature, but that, “if the Legislature fails to fulfill its duty, it may be incumbent upon other branches of government to remedy the situation.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval thus far has rejected any suggestion that he call a special session of the Legislature to resolve the redistricting issue. The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two redistricting plans during the 2011 legislative session, but both were vetoed by the Republican governor who cited concerns that they violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

Nevada Supreme Court Wants More Information In SOS Redistricting Request

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:49 pm October 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court today issued an order instructing Secretary of State Ross Miller to supplement the petition filed by his office earlier this week asking the court to intervene in the redistricting issue now in Carson City District Court.

Secretary of State Ross Miller. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The court today issued an order telling Miller to address: (1) whether the Legislature discharged its mandatory duty under Article 4, Section 5 of the Nevada constitution; 1 (2) if not, can or should the Nevada state courts engage in the act of redistricting as contrasted with reviewing a legislatively established plan; and (3) if the matter is one over which the judiciary can or should exercise authority, in addition to any other issues the Secretary wishes to address…”

“It is the intention of the Secretary of State’s office to fully comply with the order of the Nevada Supreme Court,” Miller said in response to the order. “As has already been established, the Secretary of State’s office will have no further comment on the matter until it is heard by the courts.”

On Monday, Miller filed the petition asking the court to intervene, arguing that Carson District Judge James Todd Russell failed to address key issues before asking a panel of three special masters to draw new political lines for four congressional seats and the 63 seats of the Nevada Legislature.

A key issue is whether the special masters should attempt to create a new congressional seat in Las Vegas that is composed of a large percentage of Hispanic residents.

The special masters are scheduled to take public testimony on Monday and Tuesday before drawing new lines based on the 2010 census and submitting the maps to Russell for his review by Oct. 21.

The redistricting issue ended up in the courts after Republicans and Democrats in the 2011 legislative session failed to reach agreement on the new political lines for the 2012 elections.


Nevada Supreme Court Considers Video Appearances By Witnesses And Others At Civil, Criminal Trials

By Sean Whaley | 3:24 pm August 9th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court could soon open the doors of Nevada courtrooms wider than ever by allowing witnesses and others to appear at both civil and criminal trials through audio-visual links rather than in person.

The court already allows attorneys, litigants, and witnesses to appear in certain routine court hearings by telephonic link, but the proposal to allow trial testimony through a video link would be a major step beyond that.

“With the technology available today, it is very feasible for witnesses and litigants to appear in trials and other court hearings through video links,” said Chief Justice Michael Douglas. “Use of such technology would greatly expand access to justice, particularly for residents in rural Nevada, where a limited number of attorneys practice law and access to expert witnesses is difficult.

Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Douglas.

“Through the use of audiovisual technology, judges, juries, defendants, and litigants would have the ability to interact with the person at the other end of the video link just as if they were in the courtroom,” he said. “The Supreme Court and many other governmental entities already use video links to take comments in administrative matters or hold meetings. Using today’s technology for courtroom trials and hearings is simply the next logical step.”

Under the proposed rules, adequate video equipment would have to be available in both the courtroom and the location where the witness or other individual would be appearing. If a video appearance was deemed to be inappropriate or not feasible, a judge could order a personal appearance.

A public hearing on the proposed rules contained in ADKT 424 is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. in the Supreme Court’s Carson City courtroom. The hearing will be videoconferenced to the Supreme Court courtroom at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. Individuals wishing to comment may do so from either location.

The new rules, proposed by Justice Mark Gibbons, are intended “to improve access to the courts and reduce litigation costs.”

Nevada Supreme Court Justice Mark Gibbons

The proposed rules would establish a policy favoring audiovisual appearances and direct the trial courts to “permit parties, to the extent feasible, to appear by simultaneous audiovisual transmission equipment at appropriate proceedings.”

Appearances by video would not be allowed at juvenile or appellate proceedings.

The decision by the Supreme Court to explore the possibility of remote appearances was prompted, in part, because of the vast distances between communities and the additional costs rural residents must incur for attorneys and expert witnesses.

Lawyers who practice in courthouses throughout the state have frequently complained about the costs and time demands of traveling to other counties for court hearings. Many times lawyers have not taken cases because clients cannot pay for all the travel and time involved for the numerous court appearances that many cases require.

The complaints come most frequently from attorneys who work in Reno or Las Vegas and wish to practice at the other end of the state. The result is that in some cases clients do not get the attorneys they want.

In rural counties, where few attorneys practice, litigants are often left to fend for themselves because they cannot afford the travel costs for an out-of-county lawyer.

On March 1, 2009, a new Nevada Supreme Court rule resolved much of the problem by allowing attorneys and others to appear for routine matters in civil cases via conference telephone or other electronic device, such as a videoconference link.

That rule also opened the door for attorneys in urban areas to fulfill their pro bono duty by assisting financially strapped rural residents at no cost through telephonic links.

But the telephonic appearance rule did not allow attorneys to appear in court for trials or other lengthy matters. Douglas said the proposed audiovisual rule would make such long distance pro bono work possible.

“The audiovisual rule will not only benefit the parties in court and the legal community, but also benefit access to justice as well,” he said.

The proposed rule would allow audiovisual appearances in such matters as:

  • Civil trials and hearings, including family law matters.
  • Criminal trials, penalty hearings, preliminary hearings.
  • Hearings on restraining orders.
  • Settlement conferences.
  • Any proceeding stipulated to by the parties and approved by the court.

The proposed rule would require personal appearances by:

  • Applicants seeking certain ex parte orders.
  • Persons ordered to appear to determine if sanctions should be imposed for violations of court orders or rules.
  • Persons ordered to appear in an order or citation issued under NRS Title 12, which involves wills.

Nevada Supreme Court Says No To ‘Ballot Royale’

By Sean Whaley | 8:03 pm July 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court today upheld a lower court decision saying that Democrat and Republican party officials should pick their candidates to run in a special election to fill a vacancy in Congressional District 2.

The 6-1 ruling rejected a finding by Democrat Secretary of State Ross Miller that multiple major party candidates could file to run for the vacancy created with the appointment of Dean Heller to the U.S. Senate, a situation Miller called a “ballot royale.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller's plan for a 'ballot royale' in the 2nd Congressional special election was rejected today by the Nevada Supreme Court. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The ruling was a win for the Nevada State Republican Party, which argued it should pick its candidate to run to fill Heller’s seat. Republicans were concerned that if multiple Republicans could run in the special election set for Sept. 13, the contest would favor Democrats.

Democrats have never won the seat, created by the Nevada Legislature in 1981.

Republicans have picked former state party chairman and former state Sen. Mark Amodei as their official nominee. Democrats have selected state Treasurer Kate Marshall as their official candidate.

“While this court might typically defer to a Secretary of State’s interpretation of an ambiguous election statute, when the Secretary of State fails to follow (a state law) mandate to adopt regulations for conducting a special election to fill a vacancy in Nevada’s representation in the United States House of Representatives, and instead relies on the May 2, 2011, official interpretation process, such deference is inappropriate,” the court majority said.

Justice Michael Cherry dissented, saying he would defer to Miller’s judgment in the matter.

Miller said in response to the ruling: “I appreciate the Supreme Court’s expedited deliberation in this case. The justices have issued a well-reasoned opinion that allows my office to move forward with the important business of conducting a special election to fill the vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

State Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian said: “We are extremely pleased with today’s ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court. The Nevada Republican Party chose to fight to preserve and protect the rights of the constituents of Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District and today’s ruling is a victory for us all.”

Democrats did not immediately comment on the ruling.

Nevada Supreme Court Set To Weigh In On Special Election In 2nd Congressional District

By Sean Whaley | 7:51 am June 29th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Attorneys for the state Democrat and Republican parties argued their cases Tuesday before the Nevada Supreme Court over whether they should pick their candidates for the special election to fill the vacant 2nd Congressional District seat, or whether it should be a “ballot royale.”

The Democrat Party and Secretary of State Ross Miller, himself a Democrat, are asking the court to rule by July 6 that any and all comers should be able to file to fill the vacancy left with the appointment of former Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the U.S. Senate.

Attorneys for the Republicans say Miller exceeded his authority in making the election a free-for-all, and that the parties should select the single candidate to represent them in a special election that has been set for Sept. 13, although it is possible this date might have to be changed.

Some Supreme Court justices appeared to question if Miller’s administrative decision to allow any candidate to run as a Republican or Democrat was appropriate, given the requirements in Nevada state law and the failure of the secretary of state’s office to finalize regulations on such a special election following the Legislature’s adoption of a new law addressing the issue in 2003.

“What is of concern to me is a broader legal question, (which) is the extent to which deference should be given by this court or any court to an administrative decision which is not represented by regulation,” said Justice James Hardesty.

But Justice Mark Gibbons asked attorney David O’Mara, representing the state Republican Party, why the court should not defer to Miller.

“Why shouldn’t we just let the secretary of state make this decision and interpretation, because otherwise we’re going to have judges running these elections and setting the policy” which is probably not the best option, he said. “Maybe it’s better for the chief elected official of the state to make these decisions.”

Miller, who sat in on the 45-minute oral argument in front of the seven justices, one of whom participated from Las Vegas, said too much should not be read into the questioning. Only a final ruling from the court will clarify the court’s position, he said.

Secretary of State Ross Miller answers questions after the Supreme Court hearing Tuesday./Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

His representative at the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson, said Carson City District Judge Todd Russell got the decision wrong when he ruled Miller’s interpretation was incorrect.

“The district court got it wrong because it’s decision is directly contrary to the plain language of (Nevada Revised Statutes 304.240),” he said. “That language says a major party candidate is nominated by filing. It doesn’t say: is nominated by the central committee, by the party or by anybody else for that matter. It says you’re nominated by filing a declaration or acceptance of candidacy.”

O’Mara argued against giving deference to Miller to make such an interpretation.

“Nevada’s public policy has always been that we are going to narrow the candidates who are going to be placed on the general election,” he said. “Now we can call this a special election but the statute specifically says that we are going to treat it and have all the laws of Nevada’s general election apply.”

Attorney Marc Elias, representing Democrats, argued the court should defer to Miller’s interpretation.

“The Nevada Legislature has spoken to this situation,” he said. “It has spoken plainly. And if there is ambiguity, it has also spoken as to how that ambiguity is to be resolved – by determining that there shall be a chief elections official, that that chief election official shall be the Secretary of State, and that independent of the rule-making authority, that chief election official shall have interpretive authority.”

The 2nd Congressional District seat has been held by Republicans since it was created in 1981. The GOP is concerned that if multiple candidates are allowed to run under its party name, the vote will split and favor Democrats.

Russell ruled in favor of the Republican Party in May, and the Democrats and Miller appealed.

The state Republican Party 10 days ago went ahead and picked former state party chairman and former state Sen. Mark Amodei as its official nominee. Democrats followed on Saturday by selecting state Treasurer Kate Marshall as their official candidate.

But filing for the race, which remains open through Thursday, has attracted multiple candidates running under both party banners. Fifteen Republicans have filed, although several others, including state Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, have withdrawn.

Retired Navy commander Kirk Lippold remains in the race, however.

Ten Democrats have also filed for the vacancy, including former university system Regent Nancy Price, but she announced her withdrawal from the race last week.

Besides the front-runners, most of the major party candidates have little name recognition.

Whoever wins the seat will have to immediately begin a re-election campaign for the 2012 general election.

While the ballot question remains in limbo, the two major parties are not wasting any time attacking the opposing front-running candidate.

On Tuesday Democrats accused Amodei of dodging the question of his support for major changes to the Medicare program as proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“Spin and doubletalk will not change the fact that Kirk Lippold and Mark Amodei are on record giving their full throated support for the Heller-Heck plan to end Medicare,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesman Zach Hudson.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., is the incumbent in Congressional District 3.

Republicans meanwhile questioned Marshall’s candidacy following her selection on Saturday.

“Whether it’s taking Harry Reid’s fast campaign money or losing Nevadans tax dollars in a Wall Street gamble, Kate Marshall is wrong for Nevada,” said Mari Nakashima, communications director for the Nevada Republican Party. “Nevadans simply cannot trust or afford another big government, tax-and-spend liberal in Washington, DC.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Heller to the Senate after the resignation of John Ensign over his conduct involving an affair with a former staff member.

Audio clips:

Justice James Hardesty asks why the court should defer to Secretary of State Ross Miller on the ballot question:

062811Hardesty :16 represented by regulation.”

Justice Mark Gibbons asks why the court should not defer to Miller on the CD2 race:

062811Gibbons :13 make these decisions.”

Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson says the district court got the decision wrong:

062811Benson :20 acceptance of candidacy.”

Republican attorney David O’Mara says the court should not defer to Miller on the ballot issue:

062811O’Mara :16 general election apply.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says Miller is the proper authority on the question:

062811Elias :26 have interpretive authority.”




Nevada Supreme Court Justice Ron Parraguirre to Head Court in 2010

By Sean Whaley | 5:00 pm December 28th, 2009
CARSON CITY – Nevada Supreme Court Justice Ron Parraguirre will take over as the new chief justice of the seven-member court in 2010.

The chief justice is the administrative head of the judicial branch and the public voice of the Supreme Court. The chief justice also oversees the direction of the judiciary’s activities. A majority vote of the full court, however, is required to take any major action.

Parraguirre takes over from Chief Justice James Hardesty, who served as the court’s liaison to the Nevada Legislature during the 2009 session. Hardesty won approval from the Legislature for nine new district court judges in Clark County and one in Washoe County. The cost of the new jurists will be paid for through fees rather than general fund dollars.

Hardesty also was instrumental in implementing a Foreclosure Mediation Program, at no cost to taxpayers, to assist Nevada homeowners deal with the foreclosure crisis.

“In today’s hard economic times, the court has managed to keep the wheels of justice turning and the doors open for business,” Hardesty said. “In addition to cutting the court’s budget, we reverted more than $2 million for fiscal year 2009 to the state general fund.”

Parraguirre was elected to the Supreme Court in 2004.

Both Parraguirre and Hardesty have announced they intend to seek new terms on the court in 2010.

Nevada Supreme Court Says Juror Questionnaires in Criminal Proceedings are Presumptively Public Records

By Sean Whaley | 1:16 pm December 24th, 2009

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court today ruled that questionnaires used to pick juries in criminal court proceedings are “presumptively” subject to public disclosure barring some finding that doing so could jeopardize a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

The ruling is the result of an effort by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Associated Press to obtain the questionnaires used to seat a jury in the O.J. Simpson robbery trial in Las Vegas in 2008.

The court ruled on the matter even though the trial is over and Simpson was found guilty of the kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at the Palace Station in 2007. Simpson is now serving a minimum nine-year prison term.

The court noted that the issue is likely to rise again in a future criminal proceeding.

The Review-Journal and The Associated Press sought access to a copy of the blank juror questionnaire before juror questioning by the attorneys in the case commenced, and access to the completed questionnaires of the jurors and alternates who were ultimately selected to serve as members of the jury.

Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass denied the request by the media to intervene in her decision to keep the juror information confidential.

After the jury was seated and sworn, the district court permitted the press to access the blank juror questionnaire and juror questionnaires with some information redacted were released after the trial.

But the Supreme Court, in a 6-0 decision, said Glass needed to make specific findings before rejecting the media request to have access to the juror information but did not do so.

The court said Glass failed to “articulate specific findings that would defeat the First Amendment’s presumption of openness.”

The court ordered the release of all blank and completed juror questionnaires to the media organizations.