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September 1, 2014

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Six questions:

State bar association president courting votes for 2014 ballot question

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Steve Marcus

Attorney Alan Lefebvre poses in the law offices of Kolesar & Leatham Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. Lefebvre is the new Nevada Bar Association president.

Alan Lefebvre, elected in July as the 2013-14 president of the State Bar of Nevada, has a lot of work on his plate – and not just in his role as a civil attorney with at Kolesar & Leatham in Las Vegas.

Lefebvre is charged with laying the groundwork for a successful campaign to win voter approval in 2014 for creation of a Nevada Court of Appeals.

Nevada currently is one of 10 states without an intermediate court of appeals. Now, all appeals of trial court decisions go directly to the Nevada Supreme Court for consideration, as dictated by the state constitution.

Nevada voters in 2010 turned back a proposal to create a lower appellate court. Lefebvre said he thought the effort failed in part because it coincided with another hot topic in the legal community: to switch from electing judges to an appointment system.

This time around, creation of an appellate court is the main judicial issue at hand.

So where do you begin with this public campaign?

It’s going to be a very interesting effort. We can start to establish the case to be made on a very basic level by enlisting lawyers to talk to people, and it has to be capped off with a focused campaign to the general public starting in the fall of 2014. It’s going to be ramping up steadily between probably now and certainly March of next year.

What’s the advantage of starting with lawyers instead of trying to go straight to the general public?

We have to be realistic and look at the polls. In Clark County last time, the court of appeals issue was just under 50 percent, but it lost dramatically in the rural parts of the state and in Washoe County — so my approach as we ramp up is to educate lawyers. As a lawyer, I influence at least 100 votes a cycle. I have people asking me every place I go. I actually make copies of my ballot and tell people what I think. If 100 lawyers are fully informed and educate themselves and have an appreciation of how this can benefit the legal system and promote a swifter form of justice, then that’s a start.

Any worries about getting attorneys on board?

I don’t think so. If they know the facts and they want to oppose it and they fully understand our court system now, there is not much I can say to convince them.

While people will vote on whether to create the court of appeals, you view this more as an administrative issue, correct?

The Nevada Bar Association’s Board of Governors didn’t endorse on the election of judges issue, whether that right of the people should be taken away and have an appointment system, because the board was clearly fractured and the membership was — and it’s not our business to take positions on matters that are political. This issue, although some could argue that it’s political, really concerns the administration of justice.

You said there was public confusion the last time creating a court of appeals was on the table because it coincided with the issue of whether to appoint judges. Do you still anticipate a challenge when it comes to educating the public about this change?

The benefit to Nevadans has to be made clear. Very few people actually have contact with the courts system. The real people out there, wealthy or poor, don’t have much contact with the system, and when they do, they feel so much like they are hamburger to the grinder.

This will probably take up most of your time as president and someone new will be in charge when the election rolls around. Do you feel prepared?

It’s going to be a big challenge, but I’m looking forward to it. We’re on the cusp of really great things here and I think this small addition to court infrastructure is so important.

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