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September 20, 2014

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Nevada Supreme Court keeps Howard Hughes, recreation center cases in current venues

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that the Howard Hughes Company can file suit in Carson City protesting the $200 million value placed on its 5,540 acres of undeveloped land at Summerlin West in the western Las Vegas Valley.

The court Wednesday rejected the petition of Clark County Assessor Michele Shafe that the suit of Howard Hughes must be transferred to a court in Las Vegas.

The court said a property owner may file a property tax valuation in any district court in the state. And Carson City is “an appropriate venue” for the case, according to the court decision.

The assessor’s office originally valued the property at $249.3 million, but the Clark County Board of Equalization reduced it to $149.7 million.

Shafe appealed to the state Board of Equalization, which raised the value to $200 million. Howard Hughes — which believes the value should be $149.7 million — filed suit in Carson City, challenging the decision of the board.

The Assessor's Office then filed a petition that argued legal actions against counties are to take place in the district court “that embraces the named county.”

Byt the court said the Legislature “has unmistakably declared” that property owners may file their suits only in their jurisdiction.

In another change of location case, the court reversed the decision of District Judge Robert Estes, who ordered a case transferred from Pahrump to Las Vegas.

Mountain View Recreation Center in Pahrump filed suit in Nye County after it was destroyed by fire in 2003. The suit was against Imperial Commercial Cooking Equipment, which made the cooking unit where the fire started; Proflame, which supplied the propane gas; and Harmony Fire Protection, which installed the sprinkler system in the building.

Proflame and Harmony asked that the case be moved to Las Vegas because there were inadequate courtroom facilities in Pahrump and a majority of the physical evidence was located in Clark County.

Estes agreed to transfer the trial on the grounds that there was only one courtroom in Pahrump and it could not accommodate the large number of litigants. The judge rejected the argument of Mountain View that alternate facilities should be used.

The Supreme Court ruled that the law holds that if there are inadequate facilities, the district court may order the sheriff to provide room, attendants, fuel, lights and stationery at the county's expense for a trial.

The court said Estes failed to detail how the present facilities were inadequate and did not take into consideration the congestion in the present Clark County court system.

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