Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Nevada
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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of two counts each of sexual assault of a minor under fourteen years of age and lewdness with a child under the age of fourteen, holding that the cumulative effect of serious errors violated Defendant's due process right to a fair trial.During trial, the State presented no physical evidence to prove that Defendant committed the offenses. Still, the jury found Defendant guilty of all counts, and he was sentenced to serve an aggregate prison term totaling thirty-five years to life. The Supreme Court reversed the convictions, holding (1) a comment made by the district court undermining the presumption of innocence constituted judicial misconduct; (2) a juror committed misconduct by goggling the term "common sense," and prejudice resulted; (3) certain statements made by the prosecutor during the State's closing argument constituted misconduct; and (4) cumulative error warranted reversal. View "Gunera-Pastrana v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the juvenile court terminating Mother's parental rights in her child, holding that the juvenile court lacked authority to appoint a master to preside over the trial in the termination of parental rights (TPR) proceeding.At issue whether having a hearing master preside over trial in a TPR proceeding satisfies the due process requirements in the Nevada Constitution. The Supreme Court held (1) due process requires the TPR trial to be heard before a district judge in the first instance; and (2) a hearing master cannot preside over a TPR trial pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. 432B without infringing on a parent's constitutional right to procedural due process. The Court remanded the case for a new TPR proceeding. View "In re Parental Rights as to L.L.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that the supermajority provision of Nev. Const. art. IV, 18(2) applies to two bills passed in 2019 during the 80th session of the Nevada Legislature, holding that the district court correctly found that the bills were unconstitutional.Article 4, section 18(2) requires the agreement of at least two-thirds of the members of each house of the Nevada Legislature to pass any bill that "creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form." After the Legislature declared the two bills in this case (Senate Bills 542 and 551) passed and the Governor had signed them, the senators who voted against the bills brought this action asking the district court to invalidate the bills because they did not receive a supermajority vote in the Senate. The district court found that both bills generated revenue and were, therefore, subject to the constitutional supermajority provision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) based on its plain language, the supermajority provision applied to the bills at issue, and therefore, the bills were unconstitutional; and (2) legislate immunity protected the individual defendants. View "Legislature of State of Nevada v. Honorable James A. Settelmeyer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's judgment of conviction and remanded the case, holding that the district court denied Defendant due process by failing to conduct a competency hearing when reasonable doubt arose about Defendant's competency.Pursuant to a jury verdict, Defendant was convicted of murder with the use of a deadly weapon. On appeal, Defendant argued that he was denied due process under the United States and Nevada Constitutions when the district court failed to order a competency hearing. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's judgment of conviction, holding that a trial court must order a hearing sua sponte to determine whether a defendant is competent when their is a reasonable doubt about his competency, and to fulfill its duty to order a competency hearing a trial court must follow Nevada's statutory competency procedures. View "Goad v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment against Plaintiffs, who argued that they were employees of Defendant within the context of the Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA), Nev. Const. art. XV, section 16, holding that summary judgment was improper.Plaintiff, dancers, demanded minimum wages from Defendant, a men's club. Defendant refused to pay because it considered Plaintiffs independent contractors. Plaintiffs brought this class action seeking a ruling that they were employees rather independent contractors and were therefore entitled to minimum wages. The district court concluded that Nev. Rev. Stat. 608.0155 applied to Plaintiffs, rendering them independent contractors ineligible for minimum wages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs were employees within the MWA's meaning; and (2) Nev. Rev. Stat. 608.0155 does not abrogate the constitutional protections to which Plaintiffs were entitled. View "Doe Dancer I v. La Fuente, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the petition for judicial review filed by Silverwing Development challenging the fine imposed upon it by the Nevada State Contractors Board for improperly entering into contracts with contractors that exceeded the contractors' license limits in conjunction with Silverwing's condominium development projects, holding that the term "subdivision site" in Nev. Rev. Stat. 624.220(2) is not unconstitutionally vague.Section 624.220(2) requires the Board to impose a monetary license limit on the amount a contractor can bid on a project and calculates the limit with respect to "one or more construction contracts on a single construction site or subdivision site for a single client." In fining Silverwing, the hearing officer determined that the term "subdivision site" refers to the general location of a subdivision rather than a particular location within a subdivision. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of Silverwing's petition for judicial review, holding that "subdivision site" in section 624.220(2) plainly refers to the general physical location of a subdivision and that the statute provides an adequate standard to preclude the Board from enforcing it discriminatorily. View "Silverwing Development v. Nevada State Contractors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the plain language of Nev. Rev. Stat. 34.810(1)(a) excludes claims of ineffective assistance that do not allege a deficiency affecting the validity of the guilty plea, as well as claims alleging deficiencies that occur only after the entry of the guilty plea.Appellant was convicted of three counts of aggravated stalking. Appellant later filed a postconviction habeas petition, raising several claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and appellate counsel. The district court dismissed nearly all of the claims, finding that they fell outside the scope of postconviction habeas claims allowed by section 34.810(1)(a). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that all of Appellant's ineffective assistance claims were outside the scope of cognizable claims under section 34.810(1)(a) and thus were properly dismissed. View "Gonzales v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress drugs and drug paraphernalia police discovered while searching her backpack, holding that the district court properly determined that the search of Defendant's backpack was beyond the scope of a permissible search incident to arrest.After officers arrested Defendant, they placed her inside a patrol car, placed her backpack in the trunk of the patrol car, and transported her to jail. Thereafter, the officers searched Defendant's backpack. On appeal, the State argued that the contraband was discovered in a lawful search incident to arrest or, alternatively, would have been inevitably discovered in a lawful inventory of the backpack's contents. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the search incident to arrest was invalid; and (2) because the evidence would not have been discovered through a lawful inventory search, the evidence was not admissible under the inevitable-discovery doctrine. View "State v. Nye" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Appellants' anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, holding that Nevada's anti-SLAPP statutes do not violate the constitutional right to a jury trial and that the communication at issue in this case was made in good faith.At issue was a presentation that James Taylor, as Deputy Chief of the Enforcement Division of Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB), gave at the Global Gaming Expo organized by American Gaming Association (AGA). During a section of the presentation on the use of cheating devices, Taylor presented a video clip depicting an individual playing blackjack. Nicholas Colon, the individual depicted in the video clip, sued Taylor, GCB, and AGA for defamation, claiming that the video clip was presented untruthfully as an alleged example of cheating. Defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, arguing that Taylor's presentation was a good faith statement made in direct connection with a matter of public concern in a public forum. The district court denied the anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Nevada's anti-SLAPP statutes do not violate Colon's constitutional right to a jury trial; and (2) Defendants demonstrated that Taylor's presentation was made in good faith. View "Taylor v. Colon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a government entity does not have "possession, custody, or control" over the content on the personal cell phones of former workers hired through a temporary employment agency so as to be required under Nev. R. Civ. P. 16.1 to disclose that material.Petitioner, the State of Nevada Department of Taxation, entered into an independent contractor relationship with a temporary employment agency to hire and train eight temporary workers to rank the applications received for recreational marijuana establishment licenses. Real party in interest Nevada Wellness Center, LLC sued the Department alleging that the Department employed unlawful and unconstitutional application procedures in awarding licenses. During discovery, Nevada Wellness moved to compel the production of the temporary workers' cell phones for inspection. The district court granted the motion. The Department petitioned for a writ of prohibition or mandamus barring enforcement of the discovery order, arguing that the Department lacked "possession, custody, or control" over the cell phones pursuant to Nev. R. Civ. P. 16.1. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding that the temporary workers' cell phones were outside the Department's possession, custody or control and that the district court exceeded its authority when it compelled the Department to produce that information. View "State, Department of Taxation v. District Court" on Justia Law