New Judges for Nevada Courts

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The Nevada Supreme Court succeeded in
getting key measures approved by the 2009 Legislature, including
one that adds more district judges in Reno and Las Vegas and a
resolution to create a new appeals court.

Chief Justice Jim Hardesty, who supported several proposals
aimed at easing expanding court caseloads, said the approval of
nine new district judges in Las Vegas and one in Reno plus the
potential intermediate appeals court would help the judiciary be
more effective.

Besides AB64, providing for the new judges who will be chosen in
the November 2010 elections, lawmakers also approved AB65,
increasing fees for filing civil lawsuits to pay for the judges.

Fees went from $151 to $250 for most civil lawsuits, and jumped
to $349 for complex class action cases, such as construction defect
suits. Gov. Jim Gibbons signed both bills Thursday.

Several bills died, including one supported by Washoe Family
Court Judge Chuck Weller to stiffen penalties for crimes against
judges and others in the justice system.

AB99 also allowed judges to keep personal information
confidential and made it a crime to file false liens against a
judge to intimidate or harass. The bill was passed by the Assembly
but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Weller, wounded in 2006 by a rifle shot from a husband who had
murdered his wife the same day and was angry over the judge's
handling of their divorce case, said he had worked hard on the
measure and was disappointed.

"It cleared two committees and won unanimously in the Assembly,
but it never got out of committee in the Senate," he said. "No
one spoke in opposition to it in the Senate. I think it died
because of the session."

Judiciary Chairman Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, said time was a
factor.

"The bill came very late in the session at the same time the
Senate Judiciary Committee was busy with intense discussions on
(two other bills)," Care said. "The Judiciary Committee, and I
asked, had no interest in processing the bill in light of the
pending legislative deadline."

Lawmakers also agreed to continue the state's senior judge
program, which allows retired judges and justices to fill in for
district judges on all but death penalty cases.

Hardesty told lawmakers the program, which includes 21 judges,
has been a success in easing the pressure on all courts, from
mental health and drug courts to civil cases.

SJR9 authorizes the Legislature to create an intermediate
appellate court, if voters approve in a 2010 referendum. Now, the
Supreme Court hears all appeals.

If approved, the appellate court would have three justices
sharing space used by the Supreme Court in Las Vegas.

A bill to help collect unpaid fees, fines and restitution was
supported by Hardesty early in the legislative process but died in
a Senate committee amid concerns about costs.

According to an audit, people convicted of crimes owed Washoe
County almost $20 million in unpaid fees, fines and restitution,
and AB271 would have created a statewide collection agency to go
after those unpaid funds. The bill died in Senate Finance.


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