Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

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Nevada justices say courts at all levels must have power to run their own offices

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that courts have the inherent authority to manage their own offices under the separation of powers doctrine.

The court said Thursday the city of Sparks had no right to try to set the salaries in its municipal court. But this ruling can apply to all municipal, district and justice courts.

The decision, authored by Justice James Hardesty, said there are three branches of government “and no branch may exercise the functions of another unless expressly permitted to do so by the Nevada Constitution.”

The 6-1 decision sent part of the case back to Washoe District Judge Steven Elliott to decide in a dispute between Sparks and the municipal court in setting up the budget.

Hardesty said the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that a court has the right to manage its own affairs in setting salaries, duties and other personnel matters.

“This court has recognized that municipal courts are the judicial branches of their respective city governments, and they possess all of the inherent powers enjoyed by this court, the district courts and the justice courts,” wrote Hardesty.

The decision said a court cannot effectively manage its employees if it is unable to determine the wages of its workers.

Chief Justice Kristina Pickering dissented. She said “Inherent (judicial) power should be exercised only when established methods fail or in an emergency situation …"

“I respectfully submit that, under the Nevada Constitution, the Sparks City Charter provisions control.”

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