UNLV law students watch Nevada Appeals Court in action

Book learning and theoretical scenarios can take law students only so far. So a trio of judges came to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Thursday to show the Nevada Court of Appeals in action.

The event at the Thomas & Mack Moot Court Facility featured arguments from two cases followed by a question-and-answer session. It was the first time the Appeals Court, which was approved by voters in November 2014 and formed in January, had convened at Boyd Law School.

Chief Judge Michael Gibbons and Judges Jerome Tao and Abbi Silver presided over the cases as law students, attorneys and members of the public watched.

The judges heard arguments in two cases:

* Palardy v. Sunset Station/Station Casinos Inc.: Mark Palardy, a Station worker, alleged he was hurt during horseplay with co-workers at a Friday night office meeting; during the shenanigans, he said he was put in at least one headlock by colleagues. Three days after the meeting, Palardy suffered a stroke apparently caused by a dissection of his right internal carotid artery. He argued that his injury arose out of and during his employment. The administrative appeals officer found in Palardy's favor, awarding him unemployment benefits. The District Court reversed that ruling. Palardy is appealing that decision.

* Las Vegas Paving Corp. v. Coleman: Jamar Coleman, a bicyclist, was hurt in a hit-and-run collision; eyewitness testimony suggested a Las Vergas Paving truck was involved. In its defense, the company argued that based on GPS data and driver testimony that it couldn't have been involved in the collision. The jury ruled for the company. The District Court granted Coleman's request for a new trial, finding that the court had erred in several areas and that misconduct by the company and its attorney hampered Coleman's ability to have a fair trial. Las Vegas Paving appealed the retrial decision.

Gibbons said the students had been studying the cases and could follow along. Hearing the arguments, he said, would take the lessons out of the books and into the real world. Silver concurred.

"You're watching right in front of you everything you're learning put to work," Silver said.

Responding to questions, the judges said the new court is cutting the Nevada Supreme Court's appeals case backlog. Before the court's formation, all appeals went to the high court, and Gibbons said its appeals backlog was about 1,800 at the end of each year.

Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said the new court had handled 731 cases as of Thursday and decided in 606 of them; 125 cases are pending

Tao said the new court will shorten decision times. The Supreme Court had been taking two or three years to take appeals cases from filing to resolution.

"If we stay on pace and the Supreme Court stays on the pace they are, by the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, we're hoping that the average time of disposition (between filing and decision) of an appeal in either court will be down to a year. And it hasn't been a year since about 1999 or something like that."

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