A Supreme Court Decision In Which Only One Justice Participated

Allen Matkins
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Allen Matkins

Yesterday, the Nevada Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Discipline of James A. Colin, 135 Nev. Adv. 43 (2019).  As the name of the case suggests, the opinion involved a question of attorney discipline.  Although this isn't a regular subject matter for this blog, I was struck by the fact that although this was a Supreme Court decision, it was adopted by five trial court justices and only one member of the Supreme Court.  It turns out that the other justices had either recused themselves.  Consequently, the Governor appointed six trial court justices to sit in the place of the six recused justices.  The opinion was authored by the sole remaining justice, Lidia S. Stiglich.

The opinion arose from the attorney's statements in representing a condemned inmate.  Among other things, the attorney accused the justices of affirmatively altering the appellate record and fabricating "a lie, blatantly contrary to the record".  He also alleged that they had actively participated "in a lengthy and ongoing unconstitutional judicial scheme and conspiracy to circumvent the Nevada Constitution, steal money from Nevada taxpayers, and put $30,000 in unconstitutional dollars a year into their own, and/or their judicial friend's [sic] pockets".  It should be no surprise that the five trial court justices and one Supreme Court justice found these statements impugned the justices' integrity, with knowledge of the statements' falsity or with reckless disregard for whether they were false (the remaining judge concurred in part and dissented in part).

For these and other transgressions, the Supreme Court suspended the attorney for six months and one day.  The one day is important because the suspension is longer than six months, the lawyer must petition the State Bar for reinstatement.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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