Busy week for Nevada Supreme Court panel; new admittees would be wise to sit in


Nevada Supreme Court justices James Hardesty, Michael Douglas and Kris Pickering have had a busy week in Southern Nevada, hearing several oral arguments in Las Vegas.

Young attorneys, like those who just passed the July bar exam, would be well advised to sit in on a couple of today's gems. There is, without a doubt, tremendous value in listening a case. There is something solemn in the decorum, the realization that this is as far as you can pursue state justice in Nevada, both literally and figuratively as their courtroom is on 17, the top floor at the downtown Las Vegas Regional Justice Center.

The real value is in listening to the arguments made by the attorneys. On the criminal law side David Scheick and JoNell Thomas shine. Dan Polsenberg stands out on the civil side. All three are among many local attorneys who regularly present some of the most lucid oral arguments with skill. Equally compelling appearances are made by representatives from the district attorney and public defender offices.

The back and forth between attorneys and individual justices can be pointed but never seems to get heated. Reasonable minds can differ without rancor.

An equally important learning experience is also possible. Some attorneys are overwhelmed and lose focus. They stutter, stammer, start over and ultimately stall out. Ritual suicide while on the clock in the well of the Nevada Supreme Court.

Nobody wants to be that guy.

Fortunately, the cases that feature skilled attorneys and well-prepared justices are clearly the norm. If you can't make it in person, watch the webcast here.

Here's today's synopses.

And here's an excerpt from an intriguing case that asks this question: Can someone on probation go to prison for failure to pay restitution?

Williams (Nancy) v. State of Nevada

Nancy Williams is appealing orders revoking her probation for failing to pay restitution. Williams pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and two counts of theft in the district court. Williams was sentenced to prison terms and to pay $62,351 in restitution, but her sentences were suspended and she was placed on probation for a fixed term of 5 years. One of the terms of Williams’ probation was to pay the restitution. Williams’ probation was revoked after the district court judge determined that she had the ability to make a good-faith effort to pay restitution but did not do so. Williams is now appealing the probation revocation. ISSUE: Did the district court properly revoke Williams’ probation?

This is the last hearing of the day. Arguments begin at 2 p.m.

For related coverage, see this story in today’s ABA Journal. Debra Cassens Weiss cites an American Civil Liberties Union report that suggests debtors’ prisons are a reality for many defendants.