Late today, the Nevada Supreme Court issued an order directing the Nevada Legislature to respond to Assemblyman Steven Brooks’ petition seeking to be allowed to resume his duties as a member of the state Assembly. This is now officially a three-branch affair, setting up what could become a battle between the Legislature and the Supreme Court over whether the courts may become involved in disputes over legislators in otherwise internal legislative affairs, and over how much discretion the Legislature has in determining the rules of its proceedings and disciplining its own. Politically, the executive branch, which brings criminal consequences to the table, is so far taking a backseat to the political drama playing out.
The order directs Brooks to file a an appendix within 5 days to include the letter from Assemblyman William Horne, which informed Brooks of his debarment from the Legislative Building, and any other documentation relevant to the court’s review of the petition. The Legislature will have 11 days from today to file an answer, including authorities (lawyer speak for legal argument), and Brooks will have 5 days after that to file a reply. That means by March 22, the matter should be fully briefed and ready for decision. Finally, the Court suspended a rule governing extensions of time to file responsive pleadings, indicating the Court is aware of the critical need to address the petition quickly.
As I wrote earlier today, I expect the Legislative Counsel will ably argue why the Court should dismiss the petition without ruling on the merits. But as I surmised earlier, perhaps this is shaping up to be a more fair fight, as the Court, based on the order, seems intent to have Brooks supplement his petition with additional relevant documentation. It’ll also be interesting to see if this remains assigned to a panel of three Justices, as most matters are handled at the Supreme Court are, or whether the Court en banc (the whole court) considers the petition.