In the Nevada Law Blogs, we regularly discuss “Nevada Factors”. These Nevada Factors are circumstances that are unique to Nevada’s laws or judiciary which make it different from the other states.
One Nevada Factor that arises over and over again is the dearth of controlling legal precedents on which Nevada civil lawyers and judges can predictably rely. The main reason why there are so few civil precedents is because Nevada has only one court of appeals. That court is the Nevada Supreme Court. Keep in mind that only an appellate court in the same judicial system can issue decisions that will control the trial courts in that system. For example, the California Supreme Court can write as many decisions as it wants on a particular subject. However, the Nevada trial courts have no obligation to follow those California decisions. Even when one Nevada trial court reaches a decision on a particular issue, none of the other Nevada courts have to follow that decision. On the other hand, when the Nevada Supreme Court speaks on a topic, all of the trial courts in Nevada must follow that law.
When there are no published Nevada court opinions on a particular topic, lawyers and trial judges spend a lot of time guessing about what the Nevada Supreme Court might do if it were to decide a particular legal issue. When there is no Nevada precedent, a lot of expensive legal fighting often ensues with lawyers battling each other on a particular topic, each pointing to decisions in other states or federal courts that support their various positions. So if you are hiring a lawyer to prosecute or defend you in a civil case, you may be paying a premium for legal services because of the limited number of legal precedents in Nevada.
As an example, in my practice as an insurance coverage lawyer, I am often asked by insurance companies or policy holders to give them my opinion about what a court might do in regard to a particular word or phrase in an insurance policy. If there is a Nevada precedent, I can tell the client about the precedent and reasonably predict what the court would likely with their set of circumstances. However, I can’t begin to count the number of times I have had to tell my clients that there is no Nevada precedent. I have based on my advice to them on what other states have done and on what my “experience” tells me the Nevada Supreme Court most likely would do.
Businesses are not stupid. They watch and can see all this legal wrangling going on. Businesses’ leaders know that Nevada is not a place where they can reasonably predict what might happen on many legal topics. Businesses like predictability. Just like people, business hate to spend money on lawyers. With only a few Nevada precedents to rely on, businesses are regularly at a loss as to how they need to handle themselves in particular situations. I don’t have any statistics. But, I am sure that many businesses stay away from Nevada just because it can be a legally unpredictable place in which to operate.
One thing that a new appellate court will do is provide civil judges with many more precedent setting decisions annually than what we now receive from the Nevada Supreme Court alone. In a good year, the Supreme Court can publish perhaps 100 opinions, many of which are criminal cases. With an additional appellate court, the number of precedent setting decisions will substantially increase. Hopefully, those additional decisions will provide more predictability and thus encourage more businesses to move their operations and their jobs to the great state of Nevada.
The Nevada Law Blogs support the idea of an additional appellate court for Nevada. We encourage all Nevada’s citizen’s to vote for this change in the constitution when this issue reaches the ballot.
For more information on Nevada Factors and unique judicial environment that is Nevada, subscribe to the Nevada Law Blogs.