In a short one-sentence order, the Nevada Supreme Court today denied a petition for rehearing of its decision in the Reno term limits case. With this order, Jessica Sferrazza’s and Dwight Dortch’s aspirations end to be Reno’s next mayor. Justices Saitta and Parraguirre dissented from the denial of rehearing.
Although rehearing petitions are normally the equivalent of throwing a Hail Mary pass in the final seconds of a game, I argued that this petition had merit. It’s a little unsettling that the Court decided to give no attention to its precedents stating that where a legal provision that limits a candidate’s eligibility for office is ambiguous, it must be construed liberally in favor of the candidate’s right to run.
While disappointing that the Court didn’t explicate its reasoning here, it’s hardly surprising as a matter of judicial politics. The desire to achieve finality may have outweighed any interest among the justices to directly confront the issue. Ironically, it may have been Sferrazza’s failure to brief the issue in more detail earlier in the case that ultimately did her in. She dedicated only a few sentences and a footnote to the issue in her answer.
Implicitly, the decision in Lorton v. Jones may now signal the presumption of eligibility is a dead letter when it comes to local offices, but I suspect we may see some attempts at future litigation of this issue specifically. When confronted specifically with the issue in more than a footnote, courts may have a hard time reconciling the presumption against the Court’s decision in Lorton.
The Court’s refusal to rehear the case also means that some mayoral incumbents might be facing challenges to their continuation in office, such as Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen.