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Nevada Supreme Court Holds that Justice Court’s Denial of Jury Trial to Parties in Civil Litigation with Amounts in Dispute of $5,000 or Less Violates the State’s Constitution

Volume 3, Issue 4
April 15, 2004

In a consolidated appeal of two automobile injury cases in which the litigants were denied a jury trial in justice court, the Nevada Supreme Court invalidated a 1999 policy of the Las Vegas Township Justice Court that provides for jury trials only when the claimed damages are $5,000 or more. This policy was approved by the district court in order to preserve judicial resources. The Nevada Supreme Court, however, held that the Nevada Constitution secures to all the right of trial by jury, and provides that the right shall remain inviolate forever.

The Court further clarified that Nevada's jury trial right is defined by English common law as modified at the time of the adoption of the Nevada Constitution. Unlike other states, no dollar amount was attached to the right to a jury trial in Nevada. Thus, the Nevada Supreme Court concluded that the Nevada constitutional guaranty of trial by jury covers justice court civil actions even when small amounts are in controversy. The Court noted that a different conclusion may be warranted with respect to small claim actions in justice court, but did not reach the issue as the actions on appeal were not commenced as small claims actions.

As employers often find themselves in justice court, both as a plaintiff and defendant, this renewed right to a jury trial is an important development.

Aftercare of Clark County v. Justice Court of Las Vegas Township, No. 38625, 120 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 2 (Jan. 23, 2004).

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