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Overview of the Supreme Court


The Nevada Supreme Court is the highest court in the Nevada judicial system. With the district, justice, and municipal trial courts organized in 10 judicial districts (covering 17 counties), the Nevada Judicial system constitutes the third branch of government.

Only three justices sat on the Nevada Supreme Court bench from 1864 to 1967. In 1967, the legislature used its constitutional authority to increase the size of the court to five. In 1997, the number was increased to seven justices. Each justice is elected to a six-year term, with the exception of the two new justices elected in 1998, who held two-year terms until they were reelected in the 2000 election; subsequent terms are for six years. The Governor fills mid-term vacancies by appointment. The most senior justice in commission becomes chief justice and serves for two years. If two justices are eligible, the chief justice is chosen by lot. [History of the Nevada Supreme Court]

The main constitutional function of the Supreme Court is to review appeals from the decisions of the district courts. The Supreme Court does not pursue fact-finding by conducting trials, but rather determines whether legal errors were committed in the rendering of the lower court's decision. The court can affirm, modify, or set aside the decision on appeal. The court must consider all cases filed. Beginning in January of 1999, for the first time in history and in a move to dispose of cases more rapidly, the court decides many of its cases by meeting in three-justice panels, with one panel in Carson City and one panel in Las Vegas. Panel membership generally rotates every twelve months. The full court continues to sit in Carson City and Las Vegas for those cases which are designated to be heard en banc.