Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Nevada
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The Supreme Court of Nevada addressed whether the provision under NRS 62C.200(1)(b) violates the separation of powers doctrine. This provision requires the district attorney's written approval before a juvenile court may dismiss a delinquency petition and refer a juvenile to informal supervision. The appellant, a juvenile referred to as I.S., was adjudicated a delinquent and placed on formal probation. I.S. appealed, arguing that the provision infringed upon the court's sentencing discretion, essentially granting an unconstitutional prosecutorial veto.The court concluded that I.S.'s appeal was not moot, despite the completion of his juvenile supervision, due to the presumption of collateral consequences of such an adjudication until the juvenile reaches age 18 and/or their juvenile record is sealed.On the main issue, the court held that the requirement under NRS 62C.200(1)(b) does not contravene the separation of powers doctrine. The court reasoned that this provision does not involve a sentencing decision. Rather, the court perceived it as akin to a charging decision, which is within the executive realm. The court further noted that, unlike adult courts, the juvenile court's authority is not derived from the constitution but is limited to the authority expressly prescribed to it by statute. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's order, holding that the requirement for the district attorney's written approval before a juvenile court can dismiss a petition does not violate the separation of powers doctrine. View "In re I.S." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada dealt with the issue of the scope of a valid search warrant and its implications under the Fourth Amendment. The appellant, Deva One Smith, was convicted of two counts of possession of a visual presentation depicting sexual conduct of a person under sixteen years of age. The case centered on the validity of a search warrant that officers used to seize and conduct a forensic search of Smith's cell phone.The court clarified that under Nevada law, an affidavit may be incorporated into a warrant to establish probable cause, but that affidavit cannot expand the scope of the search and seizure permitted under the warrant's specific language. Officers must search only the places authorized on the face of the warrant. In Smith's case, the officers had a valid warrant for his residence only; however, they seized his cell phone while he was outside his residence.The court found that the imminent destruction of evidence exigency justified the seizure of the cell phone. However, no other exigent circumstance allowed for the subsequent forensic search of the cell phone. The court concluded that because officers failed to obtain a warrant to search the cell phone, the search of that device violated Smith's Fourth Amendment rights. Therefore, the district court erred in denying Smith's motion to suppress the evidence found on the phone. As a result, the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada reversed the judgment of conviction. View "Smith v. State" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada ruled on the constitutionality of assigning senior justices to temporarily serve on the Supreme Court in the event of a disqualified justice. The appellant, Valley Health System, LLC, argued that only the governor has the authority to replace a disqualified justice based on Article 6, Section 4(2) of the Nevada Constitution. However, the court disagreed, noting that Article 6, Section 19(1) authorizes the chief justice to recall any consenting retired state court justice or judge not removed or retired for cause or defeated for retention of office, and assign them to appropriate temporary duty within the court system.The court thus concluded that the Nevada Constitution authorizes both the governor's designation of lower court judges and the chief justice's temporary assignment of senior justices to replace disqualified justices. Therefore, the chief justice's assignment of senior justices to the case was constitutionally authorized, and the appellant's objection was overruled and its motion to designate lower court judges was denied. The court noted that this dual-method system is not completely unique and is also present in other states such as Tennessee. View "Valley Health Sys., LLC v. Murray" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals of the State of Nevada was reviewing a petition for a writ of certiorari challenging an order from the district court. Petitioner Lina Marie Willson had been convicted of obstructing a public officer. This conviction arose from an incident where Willson had yelled at police officers from her front yard while they were attending to a separate incident involving a potentially suicidal juvenile. Willson appealed her conviction, arguing that the law under which she was convicted, NRS 197.190, was unconstitutionally vague or overly broad.The court held that NRS 197.190 was not unconstitutionally vague or overly broad, either on its face or as applied to Willson. The court interpreted the law to apply only to physical conduct or fighting words that are specifically intended to hinder, delay, or obstruct a public officer in the performance of their duties. Although the court found that Willson's claims failed, it did acknowledge that her claims implicated the sufficiency of the evidence in relation to the court's interpretation of NRS 197.190.The court therefore granted the petition and directed the clerk of the court to issue a writ of certiorari upholding the constitutionality of NRS 197.190 and instructing the district court to reconsider Willson's direct appeal. The purpose of this reconsideration was to determine whether, given the court's interpretation of NRS 197.190, sufficient evidence existed to support Willson's conviction. View "Willson v. First Jud. Dist. Ct." on Justia Law

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In the State of Nevada, Alexander M. Falconi, operating as the press organization Our Nevada Judges, petitioned against the Eighth Judicial District Court, the Honorable Charles J. Hoskin, District Judge, and parties in interest, Troy A. Minter and Jennifer R. Easler. Falconi challenged local rules and a statute that required certain court proceedings to be closed to the public.Falconi filed a media request for camera access in a child custody proceeding between Minter and Easler. Minter opposed the request, arguing it was not in the child's best interest to have his personal information publicly available. The district court denied Falconi's request, citing that the case was sealed and thus required to be private according to local rules.The Supreme Court of the State of Nevada held that the public has a constitutional right to access court proceedings. The local rules and the statute, NRS 125.080, requiring the district court to close proceedings, bypassed the exercise of judicial discretion and were not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest. Thus, the court held that these local rules and NRS 125.080 were unconstitutional to the extent they permitted closed family court proceedings without exercising judicial discretion.The court instructed the district court to reverse its order denying media access in the underlying child custody case. The court emphasized the importance of public access to court proceedings, including family court proceedings, which historically have been open to the public. The court rejected the automatic closure of such proceedings and emphasized the necessity of case-by-case judicial discretion in deciding whether to close proceedings. View "Falconi v. Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct." on Justia Law

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In this case, Tashami J. Sims, the appellant, had pleaded guilty to assault with the use of a deadly weapon in the Eighth Judicial District Court. At one of his sentencing hearings, Sims expressed a desire to represent himself, stating, "I'll go pro per." However, the district court did not allow him to do so at that time. Sims did not reiterate his request at subsequent hearings, and he was eventually sentenced to 20 to 72 months in prison.On appeal to the Court of Appeals of the State of Nevada, Sims argued that the district court erred by not conducting a canvass to determine whether he had knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel, as required by the Supreme Court's decision in Faretta v. California. The Court of Appeals, in a decision of first impression, held that a defendant can abandon an unequivocal request to represent themselves where the district court has not conclusively denied the request and the totality of the circumstances, including the defendant's conduct, demonstrates that the defendant has abandoned their request.Applying this standard, the court found that Sims had abandoned his request to represent himself. In reaching this conclusion, the court considered factors such as Sims' failure to reassert his request at subsequent hearings, his collaboration with his counsel to obtain his mental health records, and the fact that he waited until after his conviction to raise the issue. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "Sims v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint alleging that Nev. Rev. Stat. 176.355, Nevada's statute providing that an execution must be effectuated by injection of a lethal drug, is unconstitutional because it gives the Director of the Nevada Department of Corrections discretion to determine the process by which a lethal injection is administered, holding that there was no error.Appellant, a death-row inmate, argued that section 176.355 lacked suitable standards because it afforded the Director complete discretion to determine the types, dosages, and sequencing of drugs to be used in the execution. The district court dismissed the challenge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statute, combined with the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, provided the Director with suitable standards to determine the process by which a lethal injection is to be administered. View "Floyd v. State, Dep't of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court accepting Appellant's plea of no contest to two counts of attempted lewdness with a child and imposed the special condition of probation mandated by Nev. Rev. Stat. 176A.410(1)(q), holding subsection (q) is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.Upon accepting Appellant's no contest plea the district court placed him on probation and imposed the special condition mandated by subsection (q), which prohibits a defendant on probation for a sexual offense from accessing the internet without his probation officer's permission. On appeal, Appellant argued that the mandatory internet ban failed intermediate scrutiny under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment as to the mandatory internet ban and otherwise affirmed, holding that because Nev. Rev. Stat. 176A.410(1)(q) is both mandatory and restricts more speech than necessary to serve the government's interest with no tailoring mechanism it is facially unconstitutional. View "Aldape v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' return-of-property motion and Appellants' request to quash and unseal search warrants, holding that Nevada's return-of-property statute, Nev. Rev. Stat. 179.085, allows a property owner to seek the return of privileged materials that were seized pursuant to a valid search warrant even when the government has an ongoing investigation.Appellants moved under section 179.085 for the return of the various documents and electronic devices seized at Appellants' business establishments on the basis that the property contained privileged materials. Appellant also sought to quash and unseal the warrants. The district court denied the motion, determining that it was not unreasonable for LVMPD to retain the property during an ongoing investigation and that the search protocol proposed by LVMPD was a reasonable resolution of the privilege issue. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) properly denied Appellants' request to quash and unseal the warrants; (2) erred when it denied Appellants' return-of-property motion without giving Appellants an opportunity to demonstrate privilege; and (3) erred by adopting LVMPD's proposed search protocol. View "In re Search Warrants re Seizure of Documents" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the proposed schedule of June, an adult protected person, in this appeal challenging the court's rulings concerning June's ability to manage familial relationships, holding that there was insufficient evidentiary support for June's schedule.Also at issue in this case was the process for removing June's guardian and appointing a successor guardian and June's standing to challenge certain issues on appeal. The Supreme Court held (1) June had standing to challenge on appeal both the removal or her guardian and the appointment of the successor guardian; (2) the district court has authority to remove a guardian and appoint a successor guardian with the filing of a formal, written petition for removal, and a protected person is entitled to prior notice of and opportunity to be heard on such actions; (3) the district court did not improperly remove June's guardian and appoint a successor guardian, and June was afforded adequate due process; and (4) although the district court erred by improperly shifting the burden to June to file a communication and visitation petition under Nev. Rev. Stat. 159.332-.338, the court properly denied June's proposed schedule. View "In re Guardianship of Jones" on Justia Law