Justia Nevada Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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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 affirmed the district court’s order dismissing Plaintiff-inmate’s complaint to the extent Plaintiff asserted state tort claims under Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.031 and 41.0337 but reversed the district court’s dismissal as to Plaintiff’s claims made pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that, while a plaintiff must name the State as a party to any state tort claims to comply with sections 41.031 and 41.0337, this statutory requirement does not apply to section 1983 claims. At issue in this case was how sections 41.031 and 41.0337’s requirement that the State be named by a plaintiff as a party to invoke a waiver of Nevada’s sovereign immunity operates when a plaintiff brings an action against state employee pursuant to both those state statutes and 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff asserted both state tort claims and section 1983 claims against state employees but did not name the State as party to any claims. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Nev. Rev. Stat. Chapter 41’s requirement that a plaintiff name the State as a party to any state tort claims does not apply to section 1983 claims, even when brought in the same complaint as a plaintiff’s state tort claims. View "Craig v. Donnelly" 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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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 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Las Vegas Review-Journal’s amended petition for a writ of mandamus under the Nevada Public Records Act requesting that the district court compel the Clark County School District (CCSD) to disclose certain records requested by the Review-Journal, holding that the district court did not err by ordering disclosure of the records, but reversed the court’s redaction order and remanded this case for further proceedings. At issue was CCSD employee complaints alleging inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment, by an elected trustee. After an investigation was launched into the issue, the Review-Journal sought records regarding the investigation. After reviewing CCSD’s withheld documents and privilege log, the district court granted the Review-Journal’s writ of mandamus regarding the withheld records. In its redaction order, the district court only ordered that the names of direct victims of sexual harassment or alleged sexual harassment, students, and support staff may be redacted. The Supreme Court noted that the list excluded teachers or witnesses that may face backlash for being part of the investigation and then adopted a two-part burden-shifting test to determine the scope of redaction of names of persons identified in the investigative report with nontrivial privacy claims and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Clark County School District v. Las Vegas Review-Journal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that law enforcement officers cannot justify a warrantless search of a bedroom inside a home by relying on the consent of a third party when the third party did not have authority to consent and the officers have little to no information about that third party’s authority over the bedroom. At issue in this appeal was whether law enforcement officers cannot rely on the consent of a third party to search a room within a residence without making sufficient inquiries about the parties’ living arrangements within that residence before conducting a warrantless search. The Supreme Court answered in the negative, holding that the district court erred in denying part Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the illegal entry in this case and that the error was not harmless. The Court further directed law enforcement to gather sufficient information about the living arrangements inside the home to establish an objectively reasonable belief that the third party has authority to consent to a search before proceeding with that search without a warrant. View "Lastine v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court to deny Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered during a search of his bedroom after Defendant’s mother opened his locked bedroom door while a law enforcement officer stood nearby, holding that the mother’s decision to open Defendant’s locked bedroom door was private conduct to which the Fourth Amendment’s protections were inapplicable. In the presence of a sheriff’s deputy but without the deputy’s request that she open the door or suggestion that he wanted to see inside the bedroom, Defendant’s mother opened Defendant’s locked bedroom door. The deputy saw firearms and bomb-making materials inside the room once the door was open. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s mother’s actions were insufficiently connected or related to governmental action to implicate the protections of the Fourth Amendment. View "Mooney v. State" on Justia Law