Article 6 of the Nevada Constitution lays down the structure of the state judicial system. The judiciary includes tribunals that work at the state level as well as federal courts. Of the latter, there are two courts; the Federal Court and the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada. Functioning in the apex position of all state level judicial entities is the Supreme Court of Nevada. The remainder of the judicial hierarchy is divided into trial courts of general and limited jurisdictions.
The Supreme Court: In the absence of an intermediate appellate court, all reviews from trial courts are taken to the Supreme Court of Nevada. Annually, the apex tribunal receives nearly 2000 appeals; most of these are made from the district courts. It is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to decide if any legal errors were committed while handling cases by the lower courts and if the verdicts and sentencing were fair.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court is the administrative head of the judicial network of the state and as such, it is deeply involved in explaining the interpretation of state and federal laws and any disputes arising thereof. To impart this specific function, commissions and committees can be appointed by the Supreme Court. The court of last resort, as it is popularly known, is served by 7 justices including a Chief Judge. These judges sit in panels of 3 to hear various appeals or together, en banc, to decide on important matters.
The district courts: This is trial courts of general jurisdiction which means that they have the authority to hear a myriad of case types including civil, criminal, family, corporate and probate matters. There are 9 judicial districts in Nevada, covering the 17 counties of the state. Each judicial district has its own district tribunal.
Five of these districts cover more than 2 counties and the judges serving the district courts in these areas have to travel frequently to the courthouses in all the counties that come under the jurisdiction of that judicial division. The district courts of the second district that is Washoe County and that of eighth district that is Clark County are the busiest. Together the 9 district courts are served by 82 judges. Typically the cases heard by these tribunals include:
- Criminal cases including gross misdemeanor and felonies
- Juvenile and family cases including divorce, child custody and adoption
- Civil disputes over the minimum of $10,000 no upward limit.
Justice courts: These are county level judicial entities. There are 43 justice courts in Nevada which are served by 63 judges, nine of these judges also function as justices of peace. Justice Courts are limited jurisdiction tribunals that handle preliminary hearings, matters concerning the issue of NV arrest warrants, civil cases up to $10,000, landlord and tenant disputes and traffic violation cases. District courts review matters that are brought up from the Justice Courts.
Municipal Courts: These are tribunals based at the city/town level. Also limited jurisdiction courts, there are 18 Municipal Courts all over the state and these are served by 30 judges; nine of them also act as justices of peace. These tribunals handle petty offenses including traffic and misdemeanor crime related cases. Similarly, the Justice of Peace Courts exclusively take civil cases.
Apart from these, Nevada also has 42 specialty courts which encompass 16 rural and 26 urban programs. Among these are 17 adult drug and 2 family drug courts along with 5 juvenile drug courts. 3 mental health, 4 alcohol and drug addiction courts are also added to this mix along with 3 felony DUI and 3 DUI courts.