|NSC declines to intervene in contrary actions taken by district court judges|
|Written by Dee Holzel|
|Tuesday, June 22 2010 07:31|
WINNEMUCCA — The intent of a Nevada Supreme Court decision will not be settled by the justices – at least not for now -- leaving those in the business of criminal justice in the 6th Judicial District Court at odds over what should have been done in the past and what may happen in the future as a result.
On Monday (June 21) the NSC denied a motion requesting they intervene in contrary actions taken by Judges Richard Wagner and Michael Montero in the aftermath of Stermitz v Wagner. The request came from the Humboldt County Commissioners who hoped the justices would stay further proceedings until the matter could be clarified.
The NSC did neither and denied the motion without comment.
CASE HISTORY: In Stermitz v Wagner, the court determined Wagner acted appropriately when he recused himself from cases involving Humboldt County Public Defender Matt Stermitz. The recusal followed an extended dispute between the two men.
However, the court found Judge Wagner exceeded his authority when he reassigned cases coming into the 6th Judicial District Court from Stermitz to a conflict attorney. Once he recused himself, they reasoned, he should have taken no further actions.
THE ISSUE: Due to the NSC's void order, Wagner issued an order of his own vacating all his previous orders on the impacted cases and reassigned them to Judge Montero.
Seventy-nine cases were transferred from Wagner to Montero.
But Judge Montero did not interpret the
This was done in open court without the objection of Stermitz, who became the attorney of record once again for defendants on the impacted cases.
To say the very least, the matter before Judge Montero was complicated.
Some of the 79 cases involved defendants who went through the court process and were done; they couldn’t be brought back and retried without raising issues of double jeopardy.
Some of the defendants had their cases dismissed entirely and were free -- they thought -- from further court proceedings..
At least two of the defendants were in prison and therein lies the problem. Could some of the defendants involved in the 79 cases launch lawsuits because they’re sitting in prison, or in jail, or on probation when actions taken in their cases were voided by the Nevada Supreme Court?
The question became: was Judge Montero exposing the county to legal liability?
THE COMMISSIONERS UNSUCCESSFULLY SEEK INTERVENTION: Representatives from Humboldt County – and those in the criminal justice business throughout the 6th Judicial District Court – were left wondering about the county's liability in the matter.
The Humboldt County Commissioners, through the DA’s Office, sought to intervene. They requested the
The motion for stay was filed by Chief Deputy DA Brian Williams.
He noted, “For now … the County is in the untenable position of having all the cases in a state of limbo, with one Judge vacating orders and actions and the other Judge not wishing to revisit those orders and actions.”
Without the stay, Williams noted,
REHEARING: Although the NSC denied the county's motion, the matter may not be entirely dead.