CARSON CITY – The Senate Judiciary Committee took quick action Tuesday to try to establish an intermediate appeals court in Nevada, a proposal rejected by voters in the 2010 election.
The panel approved Senate Joint Resolution 14 for a constitutional amendment to set up an intermediate appeals court to ease the Supreme Court’s growing caseload. It goes to the full Senate.
Nevada’s high court saw 2,500 cases filed in 2012. Cases per justice totaled 357, highest in the nation in states without an appellate court.
Justice James Hardesty told committee members that rules would be set up on the types of cases the intermediate court would hear, such as actions that don’t involve a lawyer or review of driver’s license revocations. In most instances, the court’s action would be the last appeal available unless the Supreme Court agreed to review the case.
Hardesty, who testified in support of the bill with Chief Justice Kris Pickering, said the appeals panel would handle 700 to 800 cases a year, reducing the workload of Nevada’s seven Supreme Court justices. Even then, the high court would still expect 1,600 to 1,800 cases a year.
Hardesty said the benefit would be quicker resolution of cases. It would also allow the high court to issue more advanced opinions set legal precedent .
Justices said advance opinions require a lot more research and staff time, so the court often will issue a ruling instead.
Hardesty said the appeals court would cost about $1.7 million in operating costs – most attributed to salaries of judges, clerks and staff. The court would use existing court facilities in Northern and Southern Nevada.
SRJ14 was approved by the 2011 Legislature. If passed this year, it will go to voters in 2014.
If approved by voters, the first three appellate judges would be appointed for two-year terms beginning in January 2015. The seats would be up for election every six years.