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Pursuant to Article 6, Section 4 of the Nevada Constitution: “[t]he court shall also have power to issue writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, and habeas corpus and also all writs necessary or proper to the complete exercise of its appellate jurisdiction.” NRS 34.160 provides that “[t]he writ [of mandamus] may be issued by the Supreme Court … to compel the performance of an act which the law especially enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station …” For more than a century, the Supreme Court has interpreted Nevada’s constitutional and statutory law to vest original jurisdiction in the Supreme Court to issue writs of mandamus.  See State v. Dist. Ct., 116 Nev. 127, 994 P.2d 692 (2000) (citing State ex rel. Curtis v. McCollough, 3 Nev. 202 (1867)).  Thus, the court has the constitutional and statutory authority to issue a writ of mandamus when, in the court’s discretion, circumstances warrant.

A writ of mandamus is available to compel the performance of an act which the law requires as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station, or to control a manifest abuse of discretion.  See Beazer Homes, Nev., Inc. v. Dist. Ct., 120 Nev. 575, 97 P.3d 1132, 1135 (2004); NRS 34.160.)  An abuse of discretion occurs if the district court’s decision is arbitrary and capricious or if it exceeds the bounds of law or reason.  Crawford v. State, 121 P.3d 582, 585 (Nev. 2005) (citation omitted). “Abuse of discretion” is defined as the failure to exercise a sound, reasonable, and legal discretion.  State v. Draper, 27 P.2d 39, 50 (Utah 1933) (citations omitted).  “Abuse of discretion” is a strict legal term indicating that the appellate court is of the opinion that there was a commission of an error of law by the trial court.  Id.  It does not imply intentional wrongdoing or bad faith, or misconduct, nor any reflection on the judge but refers to the clearly erroneous conclusion and judgment – one that is clearly against logic.  Id.

Writs are available including in the following circumstances:

  • A writ of prohibition is the appropriate remedy for a court’s improper exercise of jurisdiction. See NRS 34.320; Smith v. Dist. Ct., 107 Nev. 674, 818 P.2d 849 (1991).
  • A writ of prohibition may issue to arrest the proceedings of a district court exercising its judicial functions, when such proceedings are in excess of the jurisdiction of the district court. See NRS 34.320; Smith v. Dist. Ct., 107 Nev. 674, 818 P.2d 849 (1991).  “Jurisdictional rules go to the very power” of a court’s ability to fact.  See Pengilly v. Rancho Santa Fe HOA, 116 Nev. 646, 5 P.3d 569 (2000).  A court must know the limits of its own jurisdiction and stay within those limits.  See Pengilly v. Rancho Santa Fe HOA, 116 Nev. 646, 5 P.3d 569 (2000).
  • A writ of prohibition will lie to prevent a district court from exceeding its jurisdiction.” (See Cunningham v. Dist. Ct., 102 Nev. 551, 560, 729 P.2d 1328, 1334 (1986).) Although an individual can appeal a final judgment, where there is no legal remedy, extraordinary relief is justified.  (See Zhang v. Dist. Ct., 103 P.3d 20 (Nev. 2004), abrogated on other grounds by, Buzz Stew, LLC v. City of N. Las Vegas, 181 P.3d. 670 (Nev. 2008).)

Petitions for extraordinary writs are addressed to the sound discretion of the Court and may only issue where there is no “plain, speedy, and adequate remedy” at law.  See NRS 34.330; State ex rel. Dep’t Transp. v. Thompson, 99 Nev. 358, 662 P.2d 1138 (1983).  However, “each case must be individually examined, and where circumstances reveal urgency or strong necessity, extraordinary relief may be granted.”  See Jeep Corp. v. Dist. Ct., 98 Nev. 440, 443, 652 P.2d 1183, 1185 (1982) (citing Shelton v. Dist. Ct., 64 Nev. 487, 185 P.2d 320 (1947)).  The Supreme Court will exercise its discretion to consider writ petitions, despite the existence of an otherwise adequate legal remedy, when an important issue of law needs clarification, and this Court’s review would serve considerations of public policy, sound judicial economy, and administration.  See Dayside Inc. v. Dist. Ct., 119 Nev. 404, 407, 75 P.3d 384, 386 (2003), overruled on other grounds by, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. v. Thitchener, 124 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 64, 192 P.3d 243 (2008).

Although reviewing denial of a motion to dismiss with summary judgment treatment is available to petitioners, the court reserves its discretion to cases in where there is “no question of fact, and in which a clear question of law, dispositive of the suit, [is] presented for our review.”  Poulos v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court of State of Nev. In & For Clark Cnty., 98 Nev. 453, 455, 652 P.2d 1177, 1178 (1982) (citing Bottorff v. O’Donnell, 96 Nev. 606, 614 P.2d 7 (1980)).  Likewise, the court has attempted to limit its discretion to cases which present issues of public policy or which involve important precedential questions, such as whether negligence claims under NRS 11.190(4)(e) are subject to the discovery rule.  Id.

About the Author

Jay Young is a Las Vegas, Nevada attorney. His practice focuses on business law, business litigation, and acting as an Arbitrator and Mediator.

Mr. Young can be reached at 702.667.4868 or at jay@h2law.com.