“Finally!” is the word breathed through a sigh of mingled relief and elation for the legal world in Nevada, as voters approved the creation of a state court of appeals this month at the polls. It’s only taken a quarter of a century and four separate voting attempts to do so. Even if the “average” citizen in the silver state is minimally interested in how the dealings in higher courts unfold, it’s not just the job of a Las Vegas litigation lawyer or Supreme Court Judge to be engaged in considering this issue—anyone with a middle-school understanding of how the judicial branch of the government works should be celebrating this month.
Even if your understanding of the court system is limited to the catchy tunes and old-school animation of School House Rock (on which you can always refresh your memory here), it’s not too difficult to understand that without an appellate court, any decision that gets appealed in the state’s district courts goes straight to the Supreme Court. This leaves the justices to decide “up to 2,500 appeals a year” with another couple of thousand cases pending—“everything from death penalty reviews to civil disputes to driver’s license revocations.” This overwhelming statistic backlogs the court and leaves any justice and Las Vegas litigation lawyer dreading having to hear or present an appealed case—prior to the vote, it could have taken years for a ruling to come down.
Now, though, voters have rallied and made the right decision, at least in the eyes of most of the legal world, even if “all appeals will still be filed with Nevada’s Supreme Court,” at least the justices will then “have the discretion to assign cases to the newly formed appellate court.” One voter and retired lawyer expressed a sentiment for the press that’s likely echoed by legal professionals like Brent Huntley, a Las Vegas litigation lawyer practicing in the area of construction law: “You can’t overload the Supreme Court with things that shouldn’t be there.”
But not all voters have been so involved in this political process, however nonpartisan the issue. “Similar measures to establish an appeals court had lost three times—in 1980, 2002, and 2010.” Some legal analysis experts wonder if it’s taken so long for this measure to be passed because it isn’t a partisan issue: some of the more polarizing controversial matters can ignite either progressives or conservatives, garnering huge Democratic or Republican support. An appellate court, while desperately necessary, doesn’t really light a fire under many citizens, except maybe a Las Vegas litigation lawyer or Supreme Court Justice.
One such justice—Judge James Hardesty—will certainly be celebrating this win, having “made some 127 presentations around the state since September 2013,” explaining to voters that the court wouldn’t cost taxpayers any more money, but would drastically improve the legal process for any and all parties involved—and it’s likely that at some point, almost everyone will at some point in their lives encounter the court system. The measure “had no organized opposition,” and Nevada voters came through for the courts—and themselves—this month at the polls in a resounding victory for everyone.