Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Pursuant to the protections of Nev. Const. art. I, 8, when a defendant requests a mistrial, jeopardy will also attach when a prosecutor intentionally proceeds in a course of egregious and improper conduct that causes the defendant prejudice that cannot be cured by means short of a mistrial. Petitioner was granted a mistrial on the basis for the late disclosure of certain documents. Petitioner later filed a renewed motion to dismiss pursuant to the Double Jeopardy Clause. The district court denied the motion, finding that the State had not intentionally withheld the documents from Petitioner. Petitioner then filed this original petition for extraordinary relief. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding (1) the prosecutor intentionally and improperly withheld exculpatory documents, which constituted egregious conduct causing prejudice to defendant that could not be cured by means short of a mistrial; and (2) therefore, double jeopardy barred reprosecution of Petitioner on all counts. View "Thomas v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the claims of Appellant, a Nevada inmate who follows the Thelemic faith. After the State denied his request for a religious diet, Appellant filed suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In dismissing Appellant’s claims, the district court concluded as a matter of law that a religious diet is not central to the Thelemic faith. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the district court erroneously used the centrality test rather than the sincerely held belief test in its analysis of Paliotta’s Free Exercise and RLUIPA claims; and (2) Appellant made a prima facie showing that his sincere religious beliefs may be entitled to protection under the Free Exercise Clause and RLUIPA. View "Paliotta v. State Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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South California Edison (Edison) was not due a refund of use tax paid to Nevada because it did not demonstrate the existence of substantially similar entities that gained an unfair tax advantage because of the unconstitutional tax, and Edison was not owed a tax credit in an amount equal to the transaction privilege tax (TPT) levied by Arizona because the TPT did not qualify as a sales tax paid by Edison within the meaning of Nev. Admin. Code 372.055. Edison filed a claim with the State Department of Taxation for a refund of the use tax it paid between 1998 and 2000. The Department and Nevada Tax Commission denied the requested refund. Edison then filed an independent action in the district court seeking a refund of the taxes it paid. The district court concluded that, while the negative implications of the dormant Commerce Clause rendered Nev. Rev. Stat. 372.270 (the use tax exemption) unconstitutional, Edison was not entitled to a refund because it did not have favored competitors that benefitted from the discriminatory taxation scheme. The Supreme Court affirmed for the reasons set forth above. View "Southern California Edison v. State Department of Taxation" on Justia Law

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The district court did not violate Appellant’s due process or equal protection rights when the Storey County Liquor Board denied Appellant’s applications for liquor licenses. Appellant filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the district court, requesting that the court compel Respondents to approve the applications. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Storey County Code 5.12.010(A), which requires an applicant for a liquor license to provide the board with proof of financial standing “to warrant an expected satisfactory and profitable business operation” is not unconstitutionally vague; and (2) the Liquor Board did not violate Appellant’s due process or equal protection rights in denying his liquor license applications. View "Malfitano v. County of Storey" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, where the evidence indicated both juror misconduct during voir dire and resulting prejudice, the district court abused its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of two counts of lewdness with a minor. Defendant filed a motion for new trial on the basis of juror misconduct. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant had failed to demonstrate prejudice arising from the alleged misconduct of the juror at issue. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence indicated that the juror failed honestly to answer a material question during voir dire, and truthful disclosure could have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause; and (2) therefore, the district court erred in denying Appellant’s motion for a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct. View "Brioady v. State" on Justia Law

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An amended criminal complaint was filed charging Maria Escalante and Ramiro Funez (collectively, Escalante) each with one count of trespass in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. 207.200(1)(a). Escalante moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that section 207.200(1)(a) is unconstitutionally vague. The Nevada Office of the Attorney General (AG) was not notified of the constitutional challenge to the statute. The justice court granted the motion to dismiss in part, determining that the “vex or annoy” intent requirement in the statute was void for vagueness. When it received notification of the justice court’s order, the AG filed a “motion to place on calendar,” arguing that the AG was entitled to notice of the constitutional challenge under Nev. Rev. Stat. 30.130. The justice court denied the AG’s motion, concluding that section 30.130 applies only to declaratory relief actions and has no applicability to criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 30.130 does not entitle the AG to notice and opportunity to be heard in criminal cases; and (2) Escalante was not required to notify the AG of their constitutional challenge to section 207.200(1)(a). View "Office of the Attorney General v. Justice Court" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of one count of trafficking in a controlled substance. During a break in deliberations, two jurors individually conducted experiments testing the parties’ theories of the case. The next morning, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. Defendant filed a motion to declare a mistrial and order a new trial due to juror misconduct. The district court denied the motion, concluding that there was no reasonable probability that the verdict was affected by the two jurors’ independent experiments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in denying Appellant’s motion for a new trial because (1) the juror misconduct in this case was prejudicial, and (2) the trial court’s failure to give a jury instruction prohibiting jurors from conducting independent investigations or experiments constituted a reversible error. Remanded. View "Bowman v. State" on Justia Law

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In Thomas v. Nevada Yellow Cab Corp., published in 2014, the Supreme Court held that the Minimum Wage Amendment to the Nevada Constitution, enacted in 2006, impliedly repealed Nev. Rev. Stat. 608.250(2)(e)’s exemption of taxicab drivers from minimum wage requirements. In two separate cases, taxicab drivers filed class actions against several taxicab companies seeking unpaid taxicab driver wages dating back to the effective date of the Amendment. The taxicab companies moved to dismiss the complaints, asserting that Thomas applied prospectively, not retroactively. Thereafter, the taxicab companies filed writ petitions arguing that Thomas should apply only prospectively. The Supreme Court consolidated the writ petitions for disposition denied the petitions, holding that section 608.250(2)(e) was repealed when the Amendment became effective rather than from the date Thomas was published. View "Nevada Yellow Cab Corp. v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Education Savings Account (ESA) program allows public funds to be transferred from the State Distributive School Account (DSA) into private education savings accounts maintained for the benefit of school-aged children to pay for non-public educational services and expenses. Two complaints were brought challenging the ESA program as violating several provisions of the Education Article in the Nevada Constitution. The district court dismissed one complaint after rejecting the constitutional claims. In the other case, the district court granted a preliminary injunction, concluding that one of the constitutional challenges had merit. The Supreme Court resolved the appeals together in this opinion and affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court orders in both cases, holding (1) the ESA program is not contrary to the legislature’s constitutional duty to provide for a uniform system of common schools and does not violate Article 11, Section 10 of the Nevada Constitution; but (2) the use of money appropriated for K-12 public education to instead fund education savings accounts undermines the constitutional mandates to fund public education. Remanded for the entry of a final declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction enjoining the use of any money appropriated for K-12 public education in the DSA to instead fund the education savings accounts. View "Schwartz v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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After a trial, Defendant was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. 484B.657(1). Defendant appealed, arguing that certain phrases in the statute rendered section 484B.657(1) void for vagueness. The district court upheld Defendant’s conviction without addressing Defendant’s arguments concerning the vagueness of the phrases at issue. Defendant subsequently filed a petition for a writ of certiorari challenging the constitutionality of section 484B.657(1). The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding (1) section 484B.657(1) is not unconstitutionally void for vagueness and does not violate due process; but (2) the district court erred in upholding the constitutionality of the statute without interpreting the challenged phrases. View "Cornella v. Justice Court" on Justia Law