- Associated Press - Thursday, August 14, 2014

RENO, Nev. (AP) - With the Nevada Supreme Court facing the worst case backlog of any state high court in the nation, Justice James Hardesty says it’s time to create an appeals court.

Hardesty helped kick off a campaign Wednesday in support of a ballot measure that would create such a panel in Nevada - one of only 10 states with no appellate or intermediary court.

Four similar measures have been defeated by voters since the late 1970s, the latest in 2010.

Backers say approval of Question 1 by voters in November wouldn’t cost taxpayers any money. An appeals court would cost an estimated $1.5 million to operate annually. But Hardesty said that cost could be easily absorbed because the state Supreme Court has returned about $6.5 million from its budgets over the past five years.

No new facilities would be needed to house the proposed three-judge appeals panel and its staff since the state already has available office space in Las Vegas and Carson City, Hardesty said.

With all appeals from district court currently funneled directly to the high court, its backlog has jumped from 1,550 cases five years ago to more than 2,200, Hardesty said, noting that some child custody cases take as long as four years to complete.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.

Nevada justices cannot render judgment on important issues or produce precedent-setting opinions in a timely fashion because they must also deal with lesser issues such as driver’s license revocations and prison inmate complaints about food and clothing, Hardesty said.

“It’s not as if anybody is sitting around and not working hard,” he said. “If you look at the cases that the (Nevada Supreme) Court currently disposes of, it exceeds any other supreme court in the country.”

Under the ballot proposal, the appeals court would handle many of the lesser issues and allow the Nevada Supreme Court to concentrate on large issues such as interpretations of the state Constitution and construction defect litigation with judgments that can reach $1 billion, Hardesty said.

Question 1 has no organized opposition. But backers say they have to educate the public to explain why the appellate court would be more cost efficient.

This year, state Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno; and Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, have formed a political action committee that hopes to raise almost $500,000 for the educational-ad campaign. The Ferraro Group of Reno has been hired to handle the campaign. A steering committee includes Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

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