There’s been some recent changes with regard to how criminal appeals are presented in Nevada that may affect you if you have a case under review by the Nevada Supreme Court or Court of Appeals. In this recent order, the Nevada Supreme Court nearly eliminated the types of cases which are subject to “fast track” review on appeal in Nevada.
Previously, most criminal appeals (i.e. those immediately after conviction but also those after the denial of post-conviction relief) were so-called fast track appeals. This meant that, in all but the most serious cases, the briefing was presented in a very limited fashion. The number of pages was limited and thus, by nature, so were the number of issues or length of discussion that could be presented. From a consumer standpoint, there was one other very notable concern with fast track appeals: the trial attorney was REQUIRED by the rules to draft the fast track statement, which is essentially the opening brief. Suffice it to say,even an organization of Nevada criminal defense attorneys has recognized that many skilled trial attorneys may not be as skilled at appellate work, or may not want to do it at all.
There is good news if you need criminal appeal services. As noted above, appeals docketed after June 10, 2016, are subject to the new fast track rules. The main change is now, instead of most appeals being the fast track variety, most will instead not be. Fast track appeals are now limited to Category D and E felonies and certain C felonies only. Every other case, including all Category A and B felonies will be full briefing cases. This means #1, a competent appellate attorney has every tool available in which to present your appeal, but also #2, that you are NOT required to use your trial attorney for your appeal unless that appeal remains under the revised fast track rules. This really opens up the options available for criminal appeals in Nevada, as you now can more easily select the attorney of your choice.
On a final note, even IF an appeal is subject to what’s left of the fast track rules, there is an additional new rule that arguably requires exemption from the fast track program unless the sole reason for seeking the exemption is to delay the proceedings. Obviously, any competent appellate attorney could craft an exemption request that relies on something other than mere delay in virtually any given case. As a result, practically every criminal appeal can now be fully briefed by any lawyer retained by the appellant.
The purpose of this post is to point out important new rule changes regarding appeals and not necessarily to present fast track appeals in a negative light. They occasionally do have their advantages, such as (hopefully anyway) being decided faster, and the limited nature of the briefing can result in cost-savings to the consumer, particularly where retained trial counsel has no choice but to file such an appeal if it is requested. But if you or a loved one have been convicted of a crime, especially of more serious-type felonies, it really makes more sense to hire an attorney with a strong background in appellate work. The new fast track rules increase free market choice of attorneys for consumers and lift the requirements that force trial attorneys to act as appellate attorneys, and therefore are a benefit to clients and attorneys alike.