Measures aid courts by adding judges, new appeals court

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court succeeded in getting key measures approved by the 2009 Legislature, including one that adds more district judges in Reno and Las Vegas and a resolution to create a new appeals court.

Chief Justice Jim Hardesty, who supported several proposals aimed at easing expanding court caseloads, said the approval of nine new district judges in Las Vegas and one in Reno plus the potential intermediate appeals court would help the judiciary be more effective.

Besides Assembly Bill 64, providing for the new judges who will be chosen in the November 2010 elections, lawmakers also approved Assembly Bill 65, increasing fees for filing civil lawsuits to pay for the judges.

Fees went from $151 to $250 for most civil lawsuits, and jumped to $349 for complex class action cases, such as construction defect suits. Gov. Jim Gibbons signed both bills Thursday.

Several bills died, including one supported by Washoe Family Court Judge Chuck Weller to stiffen penalties for crimes against judges and others in the justice system.

Assembly Bill 99 was passed by the Assembly but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Weller, wounded in 2006 by a rifle shot from a husband who had murdered his wife the same day and was angry over the judge’s handling of their divorce case, said he had worked hard on the measure and was disappointed.

Judiciary Chairman Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, said time was a factor.

“The bill came very late in the session at the same time the Senate Judiciary Committee was busy with intense discussions on (two other bills),” Care said.

Lawmakers also agreed to continue the state’s senior judge program, which allows retired judges and justices to fill in for district judges on all but death penalty cases.

Hardesty told lawmakers the program, which includes 21 judges, has been a success in easing the pressure on all courts, from mental health and drug courts to civil cases.

Senate Joint Resolution 9 authorizes the Legislature to create an intermediate appellate court, if voters approve in a 2010 referendum. Now, the Supreme Court hears all appeals. If approved, the appellate court would have three justices sharing space used by the Supreme Court in Las Vegas.


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