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Nevada think tank appeals separation of powers ruling

CARSON CITY — A Nevada think tank is appealing a court decision dismissing a lawsuit brought against a state lawmaker for violating the separation of powers clause in the state constitution.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation on Tuesday asked the Nevada appeals court system to weigh in on the dispute involving state Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Reno.

The think tank and plaintiff Doug French argue that Gansert is violating the state constitution by serving as a state senator while also working in the state’s executive branch as executive director for external relations at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The state constitution says no one exercising power in one branch of government can do the same in another.

Carson City District Judge James Russell dismissed the case in July.

NPRI claims Russell’s ruling ignores Nevada’s constitution, Nevada Supreme Court precedent, and a 2004 opinion by then Attorney General Brian Sandoval by relying on an opinion from the Legislative Counsel Bureau in his ruling.

“But we believe the actual words of the state constitution should matter more,” Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation Director Joseph Becker said.

In 2011, the think tank sued, on similar grounds, state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who then worked for the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada. Denis later quit his PUC job and sought employment in the private sector, so the question was never resolved by the courts.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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