Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Nevada

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of multiple sex offenses against children and related offenses, holding that the trial judge's behavior and statements during voir dire constituted judicial misconduct and that the misconduct interfered with Defendant's right to an impartial jury. During the second day of voir dire in this case, a prospective juror stated that she did not think she could be unbiased toward Defendant. Thereafter, the trial judge threw a book against the wall, cursed, and berated, yelled at, and threatened that prospective juror. After a trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts on most of the counts with which Defendant was charged. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court's misconduct during voir dire and the denial of his request for a new venire violated his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the judicial misconduct in this case deprived Defendant of his constitutional right to a fair trial before an impartial jury. View "Azucena v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court admitting certain out-of-court statements after finding that the witness was unavailable and that Defendant had intentionally deterred the witness from appearing at trial, holding that the record supported the court's conclusion that the State met its burden of proof in invoking the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception to the Confrontation Clause. Relying on the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception the trial court admitted the out-of-court statements despite Defendant's assertion of his right to confrontation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the preponderance of the evidence standard is the appropriate burden of proof for purposes of the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception to the Confrontation Clause; and (2) the trial court did not err in its application of the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception to admit the witness's out-of-court statements. View "Anderson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Appellant of two counts of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon after adopting a framework for analyzing the appropriateness of juror anonymity, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it empaneled an anonymous jury by withholding the jurors' names and addresses from counsel. Due to concerns about juror privacy, the district court decided to impanel an anonymous jury and redact the jurors' names and addresses from juror questionnaires. After a trial, the empaneled jury found Defendant guilty of two counts of murder and found that Defendant had used a deadly weapon in the commission of the crimes. The district court sentenced Defendant to life without parole on each count. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in empaneling an anonymous jury, and its use satisfied the rule adopted today; (2) a district court has no statutory obligation to instruct a jury about the consequences of a deadly weapon enhancement; and (3) the district court did not err when it admitted as consciousness-of-guilt evidence two recorded conversations during which Defendant asked his associates to threaten a key witness. View "Menendez-Cordero v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Jennifer Henry’s petition for a writ of prohibition challenging the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline’s authority to discipline her, holding that Nev. Rev. Stat. 1.428, the statute giving the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline its purported jurisdiction over Jennifer Henry as a hearing master, is constitutional. Henry presided over a hearing in the juvenile court, wherein she acted inappropriately. The Commission later filed a formal statement of charges for Henry’s conduct. Henry filed this petition for a writ of prohibition challenging the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that section 1.428 is constitutional and that Henry falls under the purview of the Commission’s jurisdiction. View "Henry v. Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this criminal case for a new trial, holding that the district court clearly erred when it found that Defendant had not made out a prima facie case of discrimination in challenging the State’s use of peremptory challenges to remove two African-American women during jury selection. Defendant was charged with child abuse, neglect, or endangerment and other offenses. Defendant objected to the State’s exercise of two of its peremptory challenges to remove two African-Americans from the jury. The district court denied Defendant’s Batson challenge. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court clearly erred when it terminated the Batson analysis at step one of the three-step analysis and that the record did not clearly support the denial of Defendant’s objection. View "Cooper v. State" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice suit, the Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the district court entering judgment on the jury verdict and the district court’s orders awarding fees and costs and dismissed the cross-appeal challenging the constitutionality of Nev. Rev. Stat. 42.021, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. The jury in this case found that Defendant-doctor’s negligence caused Plaintiff harm and awarded Plaintiff damages. On appeal, Defendant challenged several rulings by the district court, alleged that Plaintiff’s attorney committed misconduct in closing argument, and that the award of attorney fees and costs was an abuse of discretion. Plaintiff cross-appealed, challenging the constitutionality of section 42.021. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in the proceedings below; and (2) Plaintiff lacked standing to appeal from the final judgment because he was not an aggrieved party. View "Capanna v. Orth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the State’s interlocutory appeal from a district court order granting a motion to suppress evidence, holding that the State failed to demonstrate “good cause” as contemplated by Nev. Rev. Stat. 177.015(2). At issue was the district court’s suppression order suppressing Defendant’s incriminating statements made during a recorded interrogation on the ground that the statements were involuntary. The State appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the State failed to establish that a miscarriage of justice would result if the Court did not entertain its appeal. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Defendant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus as procedurally barred, holding that the district court did not err by finding that Defendant failed to overcome the procedural bars. Plaintiff, who was convicted of first-degree murder, filed the instant postconviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus more than twenty years after the remittitur was issued from his direct appeal. Plaintiff argued that he was entitled to the retroactive benefit of the narrowed definition of “willful, deliberate and premeditated” murder announced in Byford v. State, 994 P.2d 700 (Nev. 2000) and thus was entitled to a new trial. The district court dismissed the petition as procedurally time-barred, concluding that Defendant failed to demonstrate good cause or a fundamental miscarriage of justice to overcome the procedural bars. See Nev. Rev. Stat. 34.726(1) and Nev. Rev. Stat. 34.810(1)(b),(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the United States Supreme Court decisions in Welch v. United States, 578 U.S. __ (2016), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. __ (2016), do not constitute good cause to raise a procedurally barred claim arguing that a nonconstitutional rule should be applied retroactively. View "Branham v. Baca" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the State’s petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition challenging the district court’s decision finding Nev. Rev. Stat. 176A.290(2) unconstitutional and striking the unconstitutional language from the statute, holding that the statute, which grants the prosecutor veto power over a district court’s sentencing decision, violates Nevada’s separation of powers doctrine. Matthew Green Hearn pleaded guilty to battery by a prisoner. A specialty courts officer deemed Hearn eligible for the veterans court, but at sentencing, the State refused to stipulate to Hearn’s assignment to veterans court pursuant to section 176A.290(2). The district court concluded that the statute violates the separation of powers doctrine by conditioning the judicial department’s discretion to place certain offenders into a treatment program on the prosecutor’s stipulation. The Supreme Court agreed with the district court, holding (1) because section 176A.290(2) grants a prosecutor veto power over a district court’s sentencing decision, the district court correctly deemed the statute unconstitutional; and (2) the district court correctly determined that the unconstitutional language was severable. View "State v. Second Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a physician’s due process rights do not attach at the investigative stage of a complaint made to the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners (Board), thereby extending the holding in Hernandez v. Bennett-Haron, 287 P.3d 305 (Nev. 2012). Appellant, a physician, filed a writ petition and a motion for injunctive relief in the district court, arguing that the Board violated his due process rights by keeping a complaint filed against him and identity of the complainant confidential during its investigation. The district court denied relief. On appeal, Appellant argued that the Board’s investigative procedures violated his due process rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court appropriately applied Hernandez to find that the investigation did not require due process protection because it did not also adjudicate the complaint, and therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion for a preliminary injunction; and (2) the Board reasonably interpreted Nev. Rev. Stat. 630.336 to mean that the complaint and complainant may be kept confidential from the licensee. View "Sarfo v. State Board of Medical Examiners" on Justia Law