Nevada Supreme Court Takes Up Term Limits for DAs

By: Assoicated Press Email
By: Assoicated Press Email

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Fifteen years after Nevada voters approved term limits, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider whether the constitutional amendment also applies to county district attorneys.

The case involves an appeal filed by John O'Connor of Fallon, who challenged the re-election in November of Churchill County District Attorney Arthur Mallory.

Mallory was first elected in 1998. O'Connor contends term limits prevent him from holding office for more than 12 years.

He argues district attorneys are "state officers" subject to term limits. O'Connor also points to the wording of the question itself to support his argument.

"I know what I voted for when I voted for term limits," O'Connor told The Associated Press. O'Connor is not a lawyer and filed his legal challenge to Mallory's re-election himself. Las Vegas attorney Bradley Schrager will present oral arguments to the full court on O'Connor's behalf.

Three current Nevada district attorneys - Mallory, Ted Beutel in Eureka County and Richard Gammick in Washoe County - have been in office longer than 12 years.

Mallory and others counter the constitution distinguishes between state and county officers, and that a more detailed explanation of the initiative made it clear it did not apply to local officers.

They also cite an earlier Supreme Court decision, which defined a state office as "any other office for which electors of the entire state or subdivision of the state greater than a county are entitled to vote."

The Nevada District Attorneys Association and Nevada Association of Counties filed friend-of-the-court briefs disputing O'Connor's arguments.

O'Connor claims the condensed version of Question 9, as it appeared on the ballot, asked voters, "Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to establish term limits for state and local public officers?"

Opponents counter that the full body of the amendment makes clear that voters intended to impose term limits on people elected to any state office or "local governing body," such as county commission or city council.

O'Connor, a Democrat who ran and lost against Assembly Minority
Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, in last year's election, also argues district attorneys are "nonjudicial state officers" who, while elected locally, enjoy immunity from certain lawsuits and carry out the legal functions for the state at the county level.

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