Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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A criminal defendant’s request to represent himself was properly denied as “untimely” when the request was made twenty-four hours prior to the scheduled trial date. Defendant was convicted of burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, first degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, and coercion. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions but vacated his deadly weapon sentencing enhancements, holding (1) under Lyons v. State, 796 P.2d 210 (Nev. 1990), which is consistent with United States Supreme Court precedent, a defendant’s request to represent himself may be denied as untimely if granting it will delay trial; (2) the State produced sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant’s convictions for robbery and kidnapping even when both convictions stemmed from Defendant’s actions over the course of a single incident; and (3) there was insufficient evidence that Defendant’s “weapon” satisfied an applicable definition of deadly weapon. View "Guerrina v. State" on Justia Law

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While the parties in this child custody dispute asked the Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of Nev. Rev. Stat. 1.310, the Court declined to do so because the issues between the parties had been resolved, and therefore, the case was moot. David Degraw filed a motion for a continuance of a custody hearing pursuant to Nevada’s legislative continuance statute, section 1.310 because his attorney was a member of the Nevada State Assembly and the 2017 legislative session was about to begin. Misty Degraw opposed David’s request, arguing that the statute was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine. The district court (1) granted David’s motion for a continuance, (2) ordered an evidentiary hearing for a date during the legislative session, and (3) concluded that section 1.310 was unconstitutional. David then filed this writ petition arguing that the statute is unconstitutional as applied. The Supreme Court denied the petition as moot because the custody dispute in the underlying proceeding was resolved, and this case did not fall into the exception to mootness for cases that are capable of repetition yet evading review. View "Degraw v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The district court erred in invalidating a search warrant for an evidentiary blood draw and suppressing the blood draw evidence because there was probable cause to support the search warrant. After failing a preliminary breath test (PBT) Respondent was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. The results of the PBT were used to obtain a search warrant for an evidentiary blood draw. The district court suppressed the PBT results, determining that they were obtained in violation of Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court then suppressed the evidentiary blood draw, concluding that it was the fruit of an illegal search. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court did not err in finding that the PBT results were obtained in violation of Defendant’s constitutional rights; but (2) there was probable cause to support the search warrant even without the PBT evidence, and therefore, the district court erroneously invalidated the search warrant and suppressed the subsequent blood draw evidence. View "State v. Sample" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of one count each of conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon and two counts each of robbery with the use of a deadly weapon and murder with the use of a deadly weapon. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court violated right to a public trial by closing the courtroom to members of the public during jury selection without making sufficient findings to warrant the closure. The Supreme Court held that, under Presley v. Georgia, 558 U.S. 209 (2010), this violation constituted structural error, but because Defendant did not preserve the error for appellate review, under Nevada law, Defendant must demonstrate plain error that affected his substantial rights. Following the United States Supreme Court’s guidance in Weaver v. Massachusetts, 582 U.S. __ (2017), the Supreme Court held that Defendant failed to satisfy plain error review. Further, Defendant was not entitled to relief on his other claims, and Defendant’s death sentences were supported by review of the record under Nev. Rev. Stat. 177.055(2). View "Jeremias v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant in this case had “an adequate opportunity” (see Chavez v. State, 213 P.3d 476, 482 (Nev. 2009)) to cross-examine a witness when, immediately after the State’s direct examination at the preliminary hearing, Defendant waived his right to continue the preliminary hearing. Jeffrey Baker was charged with sexually motivated coercion and eight counts of lewdness with a child under the age of fourteen. At the preliminary hearing, C.J. testified regarding two instances in which Baker attempted to engage her in sexual activity. When C.J. finished testifying, Defendant waived his right to continue the preliminary hearing and plead guilty to one count of attempted lewdness with a minor. The court rejected Baker’s plea. C.J. subsequently committed suicide. The State moved to admit at trial the transcript of C.J.’s testimony at the preliminary hearing. The district court denied the motion on the grounds that Baker did not have an adequate opportunity cross-examine C.J. at the preliminary hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Confrontation Clause guarantees an opportunity to cross-examine and does not give defendants a sword to strike adverse testimony that the defendant chose not to contest. View "State v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The district court’s preliminary injunction order enjoining media outlets from reporting on a redacted, anonymized autopsy report that they and other members of the media obtained through a Nevada Public Records Act request did not comport with the First Amendment. A district judge ruled that the autopsy reports of the victims of the October 1, 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival constituted public records subject to inspection and release but directed the Clark County Coroner to redact the victims’ names and personal identifying information. After the Coroner publicly released the redacted autopsy reports, the wife and the estate of one of the victims (collectively, the Hartfield parties) filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The district judge granted the motion for a preliminary injunction and barred the Las Vegas Review Journal and the Associated Press from sharing the redacted autopsy report of the victim. The Supreme Court granted writ relief to the Review Journal, holding that the Hartfield parties failed to demonstrate a serious and imminent threat to a protected competing interest that would warrant the prior restraint imposed in this case. View "Las Vegas Review-Journal v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's postconviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court held that the filing of a bar complaint does not create a per se conflict of interest that rises to the level of a violation of the Sixth Amendment, and defendant did not assert that the filing of the bar complaint adversely affected his counsel's behavior or caused his counsel to defend him less diligently, and thus he did not present a conflict-of-interest claim that would entitle him to relief. Therefore, the district court did not err by denying defendant's claim without conducting an evidentiary hearing. View "Jefferson v. Nevada" on Justia Law

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Due process required junior water rights holders in Diamond Valley be given notice and an opportunity to be heard in proceedings by the district court considering the curtailment of water rights. In this case, a vested, senior water rights holder has asked the district court to order the State Engineer to curtail junior water rights in the Diamond Valley Hydrographic Basin. The Nevada Supreme Court held that the district court's consideration of the matter at the upcoming show cause hearing could potentially result in the initiation of curtailment proceedings. Therefore, junior water rights holders could possibly be deprived of their property rights and were entitled to due process. View "Eureka County v. The Seventh Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Nevada Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus instructing the district court to vacate its order denying petitioner's motion for expert services at public expense and to reconsider the motion. In Widdis v. Second Judicial District Court, 114 Nev. 1224, 968 P.2d 1165 (1998), the court held that, notwithstanding the ability to retain counsel, a defendant is entitled to reasonable and necessary defense services at public expense if the defendant demonstrates both indigency and a need for the requested services. In this case, the court clarified the definition of an indigent person as well as the demonstration of need sufficient for a request for defense services. The court made clear that Widdis does not require an indigent defendant to request a sum certain before a motion for defense services at public expense can be considered or granted. View "Brown v. The Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Constitution does not permit Nevada to award damages against California agencies under Nevada law that are greater than it could award against Nevada agencies in similar circumstances. Therefore, the Nevada Supreme Court's special rule of law that FTB was not entitled to a damages cap that a Nevada agency would be entitled to violated the Constitution's requirement that full faith and credit shall be given in each state. On remand from the United States Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Nevada reissued its vacated opinion except as to the damages portions addressed by the Supreme Court and applied the statutory damages caps FTB was entitled to under Hyatt II. The state supreme court concluded that sufficient evidence supported a damages award up to NRS 41.035(1)'s $50,000 statutory cap and thus the district court should have awarded plaintiff damages in that amount for his intentional infliction of emotional distress claims; plaintiff was not entitled to prejudgment interest on these damages awards; plaintiff was precluded from recovering punitive damages against FTB; costs awards were reversed and remanded for a new determination; and the district court's prior summary judgment as to plaintiff's claim for economic damages on plaintiff's cross-appeal affirmed. View "Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt" on Justia Law