Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Impact of a Nevada Court of Appeals on Probate and Trust Cases

It is not hard to tell when it is election time in Clark County.  Everywhere you look there signs asking for your vote.  While the candidates are highly publicized in advance of the election, the ballot measures often do not get as much attention.  One of the ballot measures this fall asks voters to approve the addition of a Court of Appeals in the State of Nevada.  Nevada is one of only a handful of States that do not have a Court of Appeals.  Among the States without a Court of Appeals, Nevada has the largest population and highest caseload per justice.
 
As it stands right now, all appeals from the District Court go directly to the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada.  Given the high rate of population growth and the increased caseloads, the limited resources of the Supreme Court are being taxed in order to sustain a timely resolution of all of the cases in the pipeline.  An overburdened appellate court creates a backlog of cases on appeal waiting to be heard.  In turn, individual litigant’s access to justice can be delayed for several months or even more than a year.
 
Under Nevada’s model, the addition of an appellate court would enable the Supreme Court to refer cases to the Court of Appeals in appropriate cases.  These would typically be housekeeping cases or those that do not concern an important policy of the State of Nevada.  More cases could be processed and justice will be served in a more timely manner.

Like any other civil case, a will contest, a trust contest or other litigation involving trusts and estates can be appealed from the District Court.  The addition of a Court of Appeals would allow these types of cases to be more swiftly determined on appeal.  This is especially important in the context of wills and trusts, since the overall objective of the probate code and trust code is to resolve such matters on a more expedited basis than an average civil case.  That objective is thwarted when these cases get tied up in the appeal process since it prevents the estate and/or trust from being finally settled and distributed to the rightful parties.  Having a Court of Appeals would further the overall goal of allowing the trust or estate to be ultimately administered and distributed without unnecessary delay.

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