The Nevada Legislature and the Nevada Supreme Court were impressed with the outcome of the Short Trial Program prompting them to institute a Short Trial Program for Jury Trials in the Justice Courts. Nevada Justice Court jurisdiction, set forth in NRS 4.370, includes cases claiming no more than $10,000.00 in money damages.
The State Legislature enacted Nevada Revised Statute 67.060 in 2005. That Statute enables the Nevada Supreme Court rules to fashion a Short Jury Trial Program for the Justice Courts. NRS 67.060 (Adoption of rules and procedures by Supreme Court to limit length of trials) states:
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, the Supreme Court shall adopt rules and procedures for conducting trials by jury in civil actions in the justice courts that are designed to limit the length of trials.
- The rules and procedures adopted pursuant to this section may provide for:
- Restrictions on the amount of discovery requested by each party;
- The use of a jury composed of not more than six persons and not less than four persons; and
- A specified limit on the amount of time each party may use to present his case.
- This section does not apply to:
- An action for the possession of lands and tenements where the relation of landlord and tenant exists, when damages claimed do not exceed $10,000 or when no damages are claimed.
- An action when the possession of lands and tenements has been unlawfully or fraudulently obtained or withheld, when damages claimed do not exceed $10,000 or when no damages are claimed.
- An action for the issuance of a temporary or extended order for protection against domestic violence.
- An action for the issuance of a temporary or extended order for protection against harassment in the workplace pursuant to NRS 33.200 to 33.360, inclusive.
- A small claims action brought under the provisions of chapter 73 of NRS.
- An action pursuant to NRS 200.591 for the issuance of a protective order against a person alleged to be committing the crime of stalking, aggravated stalking or harassment.
Short Jury Trial program
The Nevada Supreme Court, in turn, amended the Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure to enact the Short Jury Trial program for Justice Courts. JCRCP 39A, which became effective in July, 2005, states:
- Calendaring. Unless otherwise stipulated to by the parties, or for good cause shown, jury trials shall be calendared, depending on judicial availability, to commence not later than 120 days from the date that a request for trial or scheduling order was filed.
- Reporting of Testimony. There shall be no formal reporting of the proceedings unless paid for by the party or parties requesting the same.
- Time Limits for Conduct of Trial. Plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) shall be allowed 2 hours each to present their respective cases unless a different time frame is granted by the court. Presentation includes opening statements, closing statements, presentation of evidence, examination and cross-examination of witnesses, and any other information to be presented to the jury or court, including rebuttal. Cross-examination of witnesses shall be attributed to the party cross-examining for calculation of time allowed. For the purposes of this rule, all plaintiffs collectively shall be treated as one plaintiff, and all defendants collectively shall be treated as one defendant.
- Pretrial Memorandum. No later than 45 days before the scheduled jury trial, the parties shall file with the court, a joint pretrial memorandum. Before the deadline for filing the memorandum, the parties shall meet, personally or telephonically, to discuss and prepare the memorandum. The memorandum shall contain:
- A brief statement of the nature of the claim(s) and defense(s).
- A complete list of witnesses, including rebuttal and impeachment witnesses, and a description of the substance of the testimony of each witness.
- A list of exhibits.
- All other matters to be discussed at pretrial conference.
- All proposed jury instructions. Standard jury instructions should be taken from the Nevada Pattern Civil Jury Instruction Booklet unless a particular instruction has been disapproved by the Nevada Supreme Court. If a proposed instruction is taken from a source other than the Nevada Pattern Civil Jury Instruction Booklet, the proposed instruction shall include citation to, and a copy of, the statute, rule or case law supporting the proposed instruction. The court shall encourage limited jury instructions.
- All objections to proposed jury instructions.
- Evidentiary Objections. No later than 30 days before the scheduled jury trial, the parties shall file with the court, and serve upon opposing counsel, all evidentiary objections to reports, documents or other items proposed to be utilized as evidence and presented to the jury or trial judge at the time of trial and all motions in limine. All oppositions to evidentiary objections or motions in limine must be filed and served no later than 20 days before the scheduled jury trial. No replies or supplemental pleadings are permitted.
- Form of Expert Evidence. The parties are not required to present oral testimony from experts and are encouraged to use written reports in lieu of oral testimony in court.
- Use of Oral Testimony; Disclosure. If a party elects to use oral testimony, that party must include the expert’s name on the witness list submitted with the pretrial memorandum under subsection (d) of this rule. At the justice’s discretion, oral testimony may be provided by telephone or other remote electronic means.
- Use of Written Report; Disclosure. If a party elects to use a written report, that party shall provide a copy of the written report to other parties no later than 30 days before the scheduled trial. Any written report intended solely to contradict or rebut another written report must be provided to other parties no later than 15 days before the scheduled trial.
- Qualification of Expert Witness. No later than 20 days before the scheduled trial, the parties shall file with the court and serve on each other any documents establishing an expert’s qualifications to testify as an expert on a given subject. There shall be no voir dire of an expert regarding that expert’s qualifications. The trial judge may rule on any disputes regarding the qualifications of an expert during the pretrial conference under subsection (g) of this rule.
- Cap on Recovery for Expert Witness Fees. Recovery for expert witness fees shall be limited to $500 per expert.
- Scope of Rule. For purposes of this rule, a treating physician is an expert witness.
- Pretrial Conference. No later than 15 days before the scheduled trial, the parties shall have a conference with the trial judge to discuss all matters needing attention prior to the trial date. At the discretion of the trial judge, such conference may be conducted telephonically. During the pretrial conference, the judge may rule on any motions or disputes, including motions to exclude evidence, witnesses, jury instructions or other pretrial evidentiary matters.
- Evidentiary Booklets. Parties shall create a joint evidentiary booklet that may include, but is not limited to, photographs, facts, diagrams, and other evidence to be presented. The booklet shall be submitted with the joint pretrial memorandum. Any evidentiary objections relating to the booklet shall be raised pursuant to Rule 39A(e) or shall be deemed waived.
- Attorney Fees and Costs.
- The prevailing party at a jury trial is entitled to all recoverable fees, costs and interest pursuant to statute or Rule 68.
- An award of attorney fees under subsection (i)(1) of this rule may not exceed a total of $3,000, unless recoverable attorney fees are governed by a written agreement between the parties allowing a greater award.
Short Trial process
Justice Court Short Trials allow each party 2 hours to present its case including opening statements, direct and cross examination and closing arguments. In District Court, each Party gets three hours. Unlike District Court (where the Court appoints a Pro Tempore Judge), the Justice Court Judges hear the Short Trials scheduled in their Departments.
Any Party may file a demand for Jury Trial in Justice Court pursuant to JCRCP 38. Once filed, the case automatically falls into the Short Trial Rules set forth in JCRCP 39A. Judge Zimmerman advised that each Judge may choose different start times for their Jury Trials. In her case, Short Trials begin after lunch and are finished by 5:00 p.m. This allows her to conduct her morning criminal and civil calendars and conclude a Short Trial in the time allotted by the Rules.
I tried a case in Justice Court under the District Court Short Trial Rules in front of Judge Deborah Lippis by agreement with the adverse Counsel before the Legislature or Supreme Court approved Justice Court Short Trials. This was about a week before Judge Lippis was scheduled to meet with Supreme Court Justices to discuss the use of Short Trials in Justice Court and allowed her to discuss the issues having conducted a trial under the Short Trial Rules.
I have had the opportunity to speak with Boulder City Justice Court Judge Victor Miller and Las Vegas Township Justice Court Judge Ann Zimmerman regarding the Short Jury Trial Program. It is clear that the Program is effective, but does not get a lot of use as cases are either tried to the bench, in which case there is no Short Trial, or they settle prior to the scheduled Trial date.