Poll shows court of appeals idea gains traction

Showing that persistence prevails, Nevadans seem prepared to vote in favor of creating a three-judge Court of Appeals next November, according to a recent poll that showed the majority favor it and a mere 9 percent are undecided.

That’s before they see even one advertisement urging them to vote yes.

National pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies said he expected more uncertainty among the 500 Nevada voters polled in December.

Instead a healthy 55 percent said they would vote in favor of establishing a Court of Appeals, 36 percent said they would vote no, and a scant 9 percent were undecided.

“I was worried the numbers would be like 42 percent yes, 30 percent no and 25 percent undecided because undecideds typically break ‘no’ on ballot issues,” he said Wednesday.

His conclusion: “The ballot amendment to create a Nevada Court of Appeals is well-positioned to pass. Voters across the state, from all political backgrounds and localities, see the importance of a well-functioning court system and are likely to support the amendment in November.”

The idea went down in flames in 1972, 1988 and 2010, when it was on the ballot the same time as another question which would lead to the appointing of judges instead of electing them. I openly supported both. Both lost.

Bolger believes they lost because “four years ago, people weren’t sure about the legal issues and did the safe thing and voted no on both.”

His poll reflected the bipartisan support such a court since has garnered, both among voters and the Legislature, where a resolution passed unanimously favoring the court.

No formal opposition has formed, “but I am always concerned about the opposition of apathy,” said Bolger, a leading GOP pollster.

One difference between 2014 and 2010 is that there will be paid ads on behalf of a court of appeals. Last time, no money was spent promoting it.

A political action committee called Nevadans for a Court of Appeals formed and hired Greg Ferraro of the Ferraro Group, charging him with crafting the ads. The PAC has pulled in nearly $94,000 in contributions, cash and in kind. The big money is coming from large law firms, which want to see the courts move cases along with greater speed and efficiency.

Ferraro hasn’t written ad scripts yet but said it will be something along the line of William Gladstone’s “justice delayed is justice denied.” The British prime minister’s five words have become a pithy legal maxim.

Bolger didn’t find any major difference in answers based on party or gender, although nonpartisans were the toughest group with 50 percent voting no and only 44 percent voting yes to allow the Legislature to create the new court.

“Given that there is a not a big vote support spread by party, this is not a partisan issue,” according to his polling memo.

After asking the question initially, the poll offered pro and con arguments..

Some 58 percent said yes, agreeing with supporters who say the Nevada Supreme Court is “currently required to hear and decide every appeal on every case. This means they get bogged down hearing appeals on drivers license revocations, and hearing legal complaints by prisoners about food in jails, taking time away from important cases like family law. Supporters say Nevada has been growing, and we need to modernize and speed up the legal system so that cases that are important to people’s lives are not delayed.”

Another 38 percent said no, agreeing with opponents who say: “The court system does not need to grow in size. They say the courts will become too powerful, cost too much money, and create more bureaucracy. Opponents say that the voters turned down a proposal for a Court of Appeals in 2010, and bringing it back means the politicians are ignoring the will of Nevada voters.”

Nevadans for a Court of Appeals hopes to raise about $400,000 to spread the message statewide.

“We’re not in the scripting phase, but we’re going to be pointing out the fact that this has a direct impact on every Nevadan,” Ferraro said.

He decided a poll was needed last September after the Retail Association of Nevada hired Moore Information and polled on it and drew almost identical numbers of support and opposition. “I wasn’t sure if I trusted those numbers,” Ferraro said. Bolger was hired to verify. His poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percent.

Yep, the retail poll showed 55 percent supporting an appeals court, 26 percent opposing and 17 percent undecided. There was an margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Certainly, from a starting point, the likelihood of a Nevada Court of Appeals looks much stronger today than four years ago.

Lawyers and their clients looking for more prompt decision-making should find the poll encouraging. I did.

May I suggest one ad point?

Make sure the voters know that lawyers cannot appeal beyond the appeals court. The type of case will determine whether it goes to the appellate court or the Nevada Supreme Court.

The appeals court wouldn’t be just another stop along the way or another source of billable hours for attorneys, as cynics would have you believe.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.