Nevada Supreme Court: May 2009 Archives

Upcoming Oral Arguments - The June 1st and 2nd arguments are en banc and will be held in Carson City

In Hannon v. State, the Court reverses a conviction, entered pursuant to a plea of nolo contendere, of one count of possession of a controlled substance.  The Court finds that an "emergency" search of a home was unlawful because there was no objectively reasonable basis to believe that the two occupants or any undisclosed third party may have been in danger inside. The opinion brings Nevada case law into conformity with the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 404 (2006).

Hannon involves a call to an apartment based upon a 911 call of a neighbor concerning a domestic disturbance.  Both the adult male and the female stated that they were okay and refused permission for the police officers to enter the apartment.  Officers stated that they pushed their way into the apartment to protect the safety of the occupants and then saw pot and paraphernalia once they were inside.  The district court denied the suppression motion, even though the police officer admitted that he did not have any evidence that another occupant may have been inside who needed emergency assistance, but "just had suspicions."  The Nevada Supreme Court reversed.  The officer's subjective motivations are irrelevant.  An objective standard applies.  Under the facts here, there was no objectively reasonable basis to believe that a third party was injured inside.

48291 Rodriguez (Pedro) vs. State (Death Penalty-Pc)
May 04 (9:30 AM)
Carson City

Full Court

Rodriguez was originally convicted in Washoe County of first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon and robbery with the use of a deadly weapon. In an earlier appeal of his conviction, this court invalidated one aggravating circumstance (home invasion) but upheld Rodriguez's death sentence after reweighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Rodriguez thereafter filed a post-conviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court, the denial of which is the subject of this appeal. ISSUES: Should Rodriguez's death sentence be reversed based on claims that (1) the aggravating circumstances are invalid, (2) the assistance of trial or appellate counsel was ineffective, and (3) jury instructions were improper?

49350 State, Dep't Of Motor Vehicles vs. Junge
May 04 (10:30 AM) -

Carson City

Full Court

After respondent Junge obtained and renewed for several years a personalized license plate "HOE" (shorthand for "Tahoe" according to Junge) the DMV recalled the license plate because DMV's Special Plate Committee determined, after consulting the Urban Dictionary, that the plate carried a meaning that was inappropriate and offensive. An administrative law judge upheld DMV's decision, and Junge petitioned for judicial review. The district court reversed the administrative law judge's decision, and DMV has appealed that decision. The ACLU has filed an amicus brief opposing DMV's position. ISSUE: Do DMV regulations regarding personalized plates violate the First Amendment?

50218 Wyman (Catherine) vs. State
May 04 (12:30 PM)

Carson City

Full Court

This is an appeal of a Washoe County jury verdict convicting Wyman of second-degree murder. Wyman made a request in the district court for a certificate of materiality to obtain evidence from outside of Nevada (specifically, from California) regarding the mental health history of the State's key witness, Wyman's adult daughter. The district court denied the request. ISSUE: Did the district court err in denying Wyman's request for a certificate of materiality with respect to the out-of-state documentary evidence?

50298 Bower vs. Harrah's Laughlin C/W 49783
May 04 (1:00 PM)

Carson City

Full Court

These consolidated appeals arise from a fight and shooting between two biker gangs that occurred at Harrah's Laughlin. Appellants allege they were not part of the fight but were injured as a result of the fight. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Harrah's based on the issues arising from the fight and shooting having been resolved in two prior court cases over the same incident. Appellants were not parties to the prior court cases, but discovery for their cases was consolidated with those two cases. ISSUES: Did the district court err in granting summary judgment in favor of Harrah's? Did the district court err in awarding attorney fees and costs to Harrah's?

52055 In Re: Parental Rights As To Germany
May 04 (2:30 PM)

Carson City

Full Court

In connection with an adoption plan, a biological mother, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribe, relinquished her parental rights to the child at issue in this matter. Later, the adoption agency petitioned to terminate the parental rights of any putative father. The Cherokee Nation Tribe moved to intervene to invalidate and dismiss the proceedings, arguing that the case should be transferred to the tribal court because the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction and the mother did not have standing to object to the transfer. The district court's denial of that motion is the subject of this appeal. ISSUE: Did the district court have subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act, to relinquish the parental rights of any putative father?


49602 Fierle vs. Perez
May 05 (9:00 AM)

Carson City

Full Court

After Fierle suffered chemical burns from a chemotherapy treatment, she and her husband brought a medical tort action. The district court dismissed the complaint based on the couple's failure to submit a medical expert's affidavit along with the complaint, which is required by NRS 41A.071. The district court also denied the couple's motion for relief from the judgment. ISSUE: Did the district court err in dismissing the complaint and in denying the motion for relief from judgment?

50457 Middleton (David) vs. State (Death Penalty-Pc)
May 05 (9:30 AM)

Middleton was previously convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, one count of grand larceny, one count of fraudulent use of a credit card, and two counts of ex-felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to death. In an appeal of his judgment of conviction, Middleton's judgment and sentence were upheld. Middleton filed a post-conviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Washoe County district court, the denial of which is the subject of this appeal. ISSUES: Did the district court err in dismissing several claims in the petition without conducting an evidentiary hearing? Were trial and appellate counsel ineffective? Is reversal of Middleton's death sentence required by McConnell v. State?

50859 Bielar vs. Washoe Health Systems, Inc.

May 05 (10:30 AM)

Carson City

Full Court

Bielar, who did not have health insurance or qualify for public assistance, was in an automobile accident. Bielar ultimately received a $1.3 million settlement from an insurance company. While the hospital placed a lien on the settlement, the insurer paid Bielar directly. Bielar paid the hospital in full but filed a suit in district court asserting that she was entitled to a 30 percent reduction in her bills pursuant to NRS 439B.260, which provides for the reduction of hospital bills under certain circumstances, including when the patient does not have health insurance or qualify for public assistance. The hospital moved for summary judgment on the basis that Bielar lacked standing to pursue the claim for reduction in the bill and the district court granted the hospital's motion. ISSUE: Did the district court err in finding that Bielar lacked standing and granting summary judgment to the hospital?

50065 KING (DAVID) vs. STATE
May 07 (9:00 AM)

Elko High School
Justices Cherry, Saitta, and Gibbons

This is an appeal from an Elko County district court order denying a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence. King was convicted of first-degree murder by means of child abuse for the death of his infant son. The motion for a new trial was based on evidence that surfaced after trial indicating the infant victim may have vomited near the time of his death, leading a forensic expert to suggest that a cause of death could not be determined and that the victim could have died of natural causes.

51971 Ortega (Jose) vs. State
May 07 (9:30 AM)

Elko High School
Justices Cherry, Saitta, and Gibbons

This is an appeal of Ortega's conviction in Elko County of principal to trafficking in a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine). Ortega is also appealing an Elko County district court order denying a motion for new trial. Ortega was arrested after being stopped by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper and warned to slow down and dim his headlights. During the stop, Ortega consented to a search of his vehicle where the NHP trooper discovered cocaine. After arresting the occupants of the car, the NHP trooper opened an airbag compartment with a screwdriver and discovered the methamphetamine. ISSUES: Did the use of a screwdriver to open the airbag compartment exceed the scope of the consent to search given by Ortega? Should Ortega have been convicted of being a principal to trafficking despite the jurors' belief that he did not know what drug was involved?

From the Nevada Supreme Court:

In celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth in 1809, the Nevada Judiciary and the State Bar of Nevada have scheduled a series of forums and town hall meetings across Nevada for Law Day.

The American Bar Association has set "A Legacy of Liberty" as the theme for this year's Law Day.

Law Day officially falls on May 1, but the number of scheduled events makes it necessary to hold the activities both before and after that date.

"Celebrating Lincoln's legacy requires more than one day," said Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, who chairs the court's Judicial Public Information Committee.  "This year, in particular, we should have Law Month."

As part of the celebration, the Supreme Court will present its first annual Legacy of Justice award to a member of the judiciary whose contributions have promoted progress and excellence in the court system.  The award will be presented May 1 at noon on the north steps of the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas.

Judges and attorneys will conduct programs with students at three Las Vegas schools and at town hall meetings in Carson City and Reno.

The Carson City town hall meeting will be in the courtroom at the Nevada Supreme Court and include Justices Nancy Saitta, Mark Gibbons and Michael Cherry plus Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.  The hour-long session will be streamed live over the Court's website,

"Lincoln's legacy began with his skills as a lawyer, but he became the president who united a nation and fought for justice during a fragile and turbulent time," said Chief Justice James W. Hardesty.  "As we struggle through another turbulent time, Lincoln's commitment to liberty and justice can once again inspire us."

"I encourage everyone to focus on Lincoln's 'Legacy of Liberty' not only on Law Day, but throughout the year," Chief Justice Hardesty said.

Justice Saitta said the judiciary and the State Bar of Nevada decided to take programs to the schools because "it is important for our young people to realize the affect Abraham Lincoln had on our nation and our constitutional democracy."

"We are excited for this opportunity to provide programs on such a rich and resonant Law Day theme - A Legacy of Liberty," Justice Saitta said.


April 30, 1:30 p.m. - Supreme Court courtroom, Carson City - Town Hall Meeting with Justices Nancy Saitta, Mark Gibbons and Michael Cherry, and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (webcast on the Supreme Court website,

May 1, Noon - "Legacy of Justice" award presented by the Nevada Supreme Court on the north steps of the Regional Justice Center.  Justices Nancy Saitta, Michael Douglas, and Kristina Pickering will be joined by members of the state and federal judiciary.

  • May 1 - Law Day programs in Clark County at West Prep, Legacy High School, Las Vegas High School, Western High School, Clark High School, and Advanced Technology Academy.  Judges and attorneys will be conducting sessions.
  • May 13 - Washoe County Bar Association luncheon - Legacy in Liberty Award presented by Chief Justice James W. Hardesty
  • May 14 - Clark County Bar Association luncheon.  Liberty Bell Award presentation.
  • May 18 - Law Day program in Washoe County at Wooster High School.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Nevada Supreme Court category from May 2009.

Nevada Supreme Court: April 2009 is the previous archive.

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