Civil matters totaling more than $15,000 enter the District Court by the filing of a complaint. The complaint details the grievances suffered by the plaintiff and asks for compensation to make the plaintiff “whole”. Civil lawsuits usually involve matters in which one party sues another to enforce an agreement, contract or an obligation, to recover property or money, to collect damages for injury suffered by the plaintiff or to protect the plaintiff’s civil rights.
Defendants must be served a copy of the lawsuit and they have 20 days to respond to the suit. Once an answer has been provided, the parties meet to discuss a schedule for discovery, possible settlements, or to consider methods of alternative dispute resolution. A trial schedule, along with a summary of the claims and defenses in the case, are presented to the judge. The case may be tried in front of the judge, or before a jury if either party has made a request for a jury trial. The jury consists of eight individuals and usually two or three alternates. Three-fourths of the jurors must agree on a verdict.
The District Court offers civil litigants the option of Alternative Dispute Resolution, which provides mandatory, non-binding arbitration of certain civil cases, wherein the amount at issue is less than $40,000 per plaintiff. The purpose of the program is to provide a simplified procedure for obtaining a prompt, economical and equitable resolution of certain civil matters. In addition, certain civil litigants can participate in the Short Trial Program, which offers a trial, with the consent of the parties, that restricts the amount of discovery requested by each party, uses a jury composed of not more than six persons, and limits the length of the trial to one day.
The District Court handles crimes classified as either a gross misdemeanor or a felony. A gross misdemeanor is a serious offense that is punishable by confinement in the county jail for up to one year and/or a fine of not more than $2,000. A felony is an offense, such as kidnapping or murder, that is punishable by death or imprisonment in the Nevada prison system.
Defendants appear in the District Court for arraignments, motions and trials. During the arraignment proceeding, the accused must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The defendant has the right to a schedule a trial within 60 days of the arraignment, or the defendant can waive this right to a speedy trial.
The State of Nevada, represented by the Clark County District Attorney, brings criminal charges to the court in the form of an indictment or information. An indictment, returned by the Grand Jury, details the probable cause alleging that a crime has been committed. Grand Jury returns are heard twice a week by the Chief Judge, who sets a bail amount and randomly selects a judicial department to hear the case. An informationcomplaint comes to the District Court after the defendant appears in a Justice Court. If a Justice of the Peace determines there is sufficient probable cause to show a crime has been committed, the case is presented to the District Court as an information and randomly assigned to a judicial department.
Individuals accused of either a felony or a gross misdemeanor are entitled to a jury trial. The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and an unanimous verdict of twelve persons must be reached to either convict or acquit a person charged with a crime.
If a person is convicted, the District Court judge sets a date for a sentencing hearing. A presentence report is created by the Nevada Department of Probation and Parole and the delivered to the judge. During the sentencing hearing victims are allowed to speak before the judge, who then pronounces a sentence taking into consideration victim statements, the presentence report and Nevada statues. A defendant can appeal a sentence to the Nevada Supreme Court.