The Las Vegas branch of the Supreme Court of Nevada is located downtown at 408 East Clark Ave. It can be reached at (702) 486-3232. Doors are open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Monday through Friday, not including holidays.
In this article our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer these frequently-asked-questions:
- 1. What does the Nevada Supreme Court do?
- 2. How is it different from the Nevada Court of Appeals?
- 3. How does the appeal process work?
- 4. Can Nevada Supreme Court decisions be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court?
- 5. Can people appeal without an attorney?
- 6. Where are the courtrooms located?
1. What does the Nevada Supreme Court do?
As Nevada’s highest court, the Nevada Supreme Court (NSC) reviews appeals of trial verdicts and other court orders from the state’s eleven district courts. (This includes family law cases as well.)
The NSC does not hold its own trials or motion hearings. Instead, the NSC deliberates whether lower courts interpreted statutes and caselaw correctly or committed prejudicial legal errors.
Ultimately, the NSC decides whether to either affirm, reverse, or modify the lower courts’ judgments. Then the district judges are required to follow the NSC’s decisions whenever these cases gets remanded back down to their courtrooms.
The NSC has seven justices total. Usually three justices review a particular appeal, and decisions do not have to be unanimous – only two of the three justices have to agree. Occasionally all seven justices hear an appeal (“en banc”); then four would need to agree.
Oftentimes the NSC publishes written opinions outlining its reasoning. These opinions serve as binding precedent for all future cases in the state.
2. How is it different from the Nevada Court of Appeals?
The Nevada Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediary judiciary, above the district level but below the supreme level. It is a very new part of the judicial system, having been installed only in 2015 following a 2014 ballot measure.
Prior to 2015, every appealed case from the district level reached the NSC. Now, about a third of those cases get routed to the intermediary appeals level to help lessen the backlog. These cases are usually not precedent-setting and do not have large-scale ramifications for the state.
3. How does the appeals process work?
The appellant (the losing party in a district court case) submits a brief to the supreme court explaining how the district court got the case wrong. Then the respondent (the winning party) submits an answering brief that argues against the appellant’s claims. The appellant may then submit a reply brief to rebut the respondent’s claims.
Sometimes the justices decide how to rule on an appeal based solely on the briefs. Other times, they hold an oral argument between appellants and respondents. These oral arguments usually last 30 minutes, and the justices are free to ask either side questions.
Example: Henry is convicted of murder in Las Vegas. He appeals, arguing in his brief that he was denied a fair trial because his attorney refused to argue temporary insanity. The district attorney (prosecutor) argues in her answering brief that there was no basis for the insanity defense under Nevada state law. After holding a hearing, the justices decide that Henry’s criminal defense attorney did commit ineffective assistance of counsel. It vacates the guilty verdict in the district court, and it orders the district judge to hold a new trial where Henry can argue that he was legally insane during the murder.
Note that due to coronavirus / COVID 19, some oral arguments may take place telephonically.
4. Can Nevada Supreme Court decisions be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court?
Yes, but only if the case involves an issue of United States federal law. But very few of these cases are even accepted (“granted cert.”) for review in Washington D.C.
5. Can people appeal without an attorney?
People can elect to represent themselves in an appeal. The legal term for this is appealing in proper person. But this puts the appellant at a tremendous disadvantage.
The Nevada Rules of Appellate Procedure are extremely confusing and complicated, and most self-help legal resources are inadequate for helping appellants navigate the legal gauntlets. Anyone considering appealing their case is strongly advised to hire an experienced appellate law firm to handle the process.
6. Where are the courtrooms located?
There are two locations. The southern Nevada location – called the Las Vegas Courthouse – is located at 408 E Clark Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101 in Clark County. The building is very new, having opened only in 2017. Prior to then, justices in Las Vegas would hear cases on the top floor of the Regional Justice Center a few blocks away.
The northern Nevada location is located at 201 South Carson Street, Suite 201, Carson City, NV 89701 in Washoe County. It is a short drive from Reno.
These buildings also hold several administrative offices in addition to courtrooms.
- State of Nevada Judiciary official site
- Chief Justice Kristina Pickering
- Judicial rules
- Appellate case lookup
- Advance Opinions
- Nevada State Bar