Supreme Court of Nevada

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Supreme Court of Nevada
Supreme Court of Nevada, Carson City, Nevada
Established 1864
Country Nevada Nevada, United States United States
Location Carson City, Nevada
Composition method Election
Authorized by Nevada State Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Judge term length 6 years
Number of positions 7
Website Official Website
Chief Justice
Currently Ron D. Parraguirre
Since January 4, 2016
Jurist term ends 2017

The Supreme Court of Nevada is the highest court of the U.S. state of Nevada. It is the highest judicial body of the Nevada judicial system.[1]

There are seven Justices of the court, who are elected to six-year terms in officially nonpartisan elections. The Governor appoints Justices in the case of a vacancy. The most senior justice becomes Chief Justice for a two-year term.[2]

The main constitutional function of the Supreme Court is to review appeals from the decisions of the district courts. The Supreme Court does not pursue fact-finding by conducting trials, but rather determines whether legal errors were committed in the rendering of the lower court's decision. The court can affirm, modify, or set aside the decision on appeal. The court must consider all cases filed.[3]


When Nevada established its statehood in 1864, three justices were elected to the Supreme Court for a term of six years. This was increased to five justices in 1967, and to seven justices in 1997.[4]

Despite a population boom in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Nevada was unable for many years to establish an intermediate appellate court, like the vast majority of U.S. states. Attempts to create one all failed at the ballot box in 1972, 1980, 1992, and 2010. The result was extraordinarily severe congestion at the appellate level, as all appeals must be processed through the state supreme court. The alternative would be to have no right to appeal, since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that appeal is not a constitutional right,[5] which has always been and is still the case today in Virginia in civil and criminal cases, and until the early 2000s was also the case in New Hampshire and West Virginia (until both of those states recognized that denying such a right was unjust and barbaric). Nevada, however, has guaranteed its residents a right to appeal since statehood,[6] resulting in the present crisis. From the 1980s to the present, Nevada state supreme court justices have been burdened with the highest per-justice caseloads of any state supreme court in the United States.

In January 1999, to bring its soaring backlog under control, the Supreme Court of Nevada adopted for the first time a measure that was frequently used by the Supreme Court of California prior to the creation of the California Courts of Appeal in 1904 (and for a few years afterward). The Court divided itself into two three-justice panels which rotate membership every 12 months. The majority of cases are now heard and decided by the three-justice panels, with one panel in Carson City and one panel in Las Vegas. The Chief Justice focuses on administrative duties, but frequently sits on the panels whenever one of the panel justices has to recuse because of a conflict of interest, and also helps to decide the few cases which are still heard en banc by all seven justices.[7]

The advantage of this system, of course, is that it is faster to negotiate a consensus on the key points of a majority opinion among three instead of seven justices. The disadvantages are that the two panels might inadvertently issue conflicting majority opinions; and that an appellant might be ruled against by two justices on a panel of three, who might have been a minority (that is, 5–2) if the case had been heard by a full court of seven justices.

This system persisted from 1999 to 2015, while the state supreme court lobbied the people and the legislature of the state of Nevada to create an intermediate appellate court. The Legislature eventually authorized the latest attempt to appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot. Question 2, however, was narrowly rejected by 53% of the 670,126 votes cast.[8] The same issue appeared again as Question 1 on the November 4, 2014 ballot, which was narrowly approved by Nevada voters by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.[9] Nevada then immediately established a Nevada Court of Appeals.[9]

The new court operates under a "push down" or "deflective" model similar to Iowa, in which the intermediate appellate court handles the tedious task known as "error correction" among appellate specialists. That is, all appeals are still filed with the Supreme Court of Nevada, but are then screened to determine whether they involve truly novel issues of law or important issues of public policy, as opposed to contentions that the trial court erred by failing to apply existing precedent. It is expected that about one third of Nevada appeals fall into the latter category and will be reassigned to the Court of Appeals, thereby enabling the state supreme court to focus on deciding hard questions in the remaining cases. In turn, appeals from the decisions of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court will be at the discretion of the Supreme Court, as with intermediate appellate courts in other states.

Current Justices[edit]

Seat[10] Name[11] Terms[12] Next Election[13] Seniority/Class[14]
Seat D Mark Gibbons 2002-2008
2020 3
Seat C Michael Cherry 2006-2012
2018 2
Seat B Kristina Pickering 2008-2014
2020 3
Seat G Nancy Saitta 2006-2012
2018 2
Seat F Michael Douglas 2004-2006
2018 2
Seat A James Hardesty 2004-2010
2016 1
Seat E Ron Parraguirre 2004-2010
2016 1

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nevada Judiciary". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  2. ^ "Nevada Judiciary". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  3. ^ "Nevada Judiciary". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  4. ^ "Nevada Judiciary". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  5. ^ Smith v. Robbins, 528 U.S. 259, 270 n.5 (2000) ("[t]he Constitution does not . . . require states to create appellate review in the first place"); M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102, 110 (1996) ("the Federal Constitution guarantees no right to appellate review").
  6. ^ Nevada Constitution, Article 6, Section 4.
  7. ^ "Nevada Judiciary". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  8. ^,_Question_2_(2010)
  9. ^ a b Ritter, Ken (11 November 2014). "Officials setting up new Nevada Court of Appeals". Reno Gazette-Journal. Gannett. 
  10. ^ "The Supreme Court of Nevada Justices". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  11. ^ "The Supreme Court of Nevada Justices". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  12. ^ "The Supreme Court of Nevada Justices". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  13. ^ "The Supreme Court of Nevada Justices". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  14. ^ "The Supreme Court of Nevada Justices". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Nevada. (2000). Practice before the Supreme Court of Nevada: an overview, Carson City, Nev: Nevada State Supreme Court Clerk's Office.
  • The Nevada State Supreme Court. (1986). Carson City, Nev: Administrative Office of the Courts.

External links[edit]