Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Nevada Desperately Needs A Court Of Appeals

OnionIn April 2012, Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan tried to give the family dog Onion a kiss good night.  He stumbled onto the dog.  Onion instinctively grabbed the little boy.  Immediate intervention by the family was not enough to save Jermiah from the dog’s unprecedented response.  Jeremiah died.

The City of Henderson wanted to immediately euthanize the dog claiming that the six-year-old Mastif-Rhodesian mix was a danger to the community.  The Lexus Project, a dog rescue organization, intervened.  The Lexus Project argued that the dog is not vicious and should be spared.

The District Court authorized the City of Henderson to euthanize the dog.  The Lexus Project appealed.  Now, over a year later, the case was just recently argued before the Nevada Supreme Court.  For more details, see the Las Vegas Review Journal.  It will be months more before the Court issues its final written decision.  All the while, Onion waits in a segregation cage in Henderson.

Why is this painful case taking so long?  The Editorial Board of the Review Journal complains that the case is wasting the court’s time and that the dog should be put down.  But the Nevada Supreme Court is the only appellate avenue available to the parties.  In addition, the Nevada Supreme Court has one of the highest, if not the highest, caseloads of mandatory-review cases per justice in the country.  See Chief Justice Pickering’s 2013 State of the Judiciary Message.  For this reason, delays before the Nevada Supreme Court are regretfully common.

But imagine what might have been if Nevada voters had approved the creation of a proposed Court of Appeals in 2010.  Had there been a Court of Appeals, would Onion’s case have stalled for more than a year between the filing of the appeal and the hearing on the merits?  Would the parties still be waiting additional months for the final decision to be written?  Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Kristina Pickering believes that creating a Court of Appeals will “speed up dispositions, not delay them.”  Obviously, a speedy disposition would be best for all parties involved in Onion’s case.

Chief Justice Pickering also explained that supreme courts are most effectively used when they interpret unsettled issues of constitutional and statutory law and write opinions that will add to the body of decisional law.  The case of Onion is not such a case.  Rather, Onion’s case is one where the appellate court must closely examine the facts and decide if the lower court correctly interpreted and applied settled law.  Onion’s case is one that would have been justly and swiftly handled by a Court of Appeal.

It is ironic that the Las Vegas Review Journal advocates swift justice in Onion’s case and thinks that this case is a waste of the Supreme Court’s time but at least in 2010 was opposed to attempts to create the Court of Appeals.

Fortunately, the Nevada Legislature just passed SJR 14 putting the question of establishing a Nevada Court of Appeal on the ballot.  While the creation of a Court of Appeals will not impact Onion’s case, parties in similar cases will be better served if Nevada creates a Court of Appeals.  Therefore, I urge all Nevadans to support the campaign in favor of a Court of Appeals and to vote in the affirmative when the question appears on the ballot.

Michael Mills About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

 
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