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Court-access lawsuit gets initial win at Nevada Supreme Court

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

The lawsuit seeking to address media access in family courts across the state got an initial go-ahead this week in the Nevada Supreme Court.

Alex Falconi, who runs the Our Nevada Judges website, a site that publishes videos of court proceedings, sued in July. He is challenging a rule in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Las Vegas that has restricted his access to court proceedings.

There are two cases. The first is the challenge filed with the ACLU of Nevada challenging a rule change at the Las Vegas Court.

The rule change at that court means Falconi could be prevented from covering any child custody or domestic cases. In fact, he has. And judges have to enforce the rule.

“Now, under the broader language of [the court’s rules], the ability for a single party to demand private proceedings and exclude those not involved directly in the case now applies to all family law matters, and there is no longer a ‘good cause’ requirement for exclusion of parents, guardians, siblings and witnesses,” his petition filed in July with the ACLU noted.

The Nevada Supreme Court this week concluded the Eighth Judicial District Court has to file an answer to Falconi’s petition.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal also intervened in the case, but the state court denied the news source’s motion – justices instead said the Review-Journal could file its own petition.

Falconi’s second case is related. He was denied access to videotape a court proceeding at the same Las Vegas court.

An opinion column submitted to the Las Vegas Review-Journal in the wake of the ACLU case filing claimed “closed hearings are driven by the parties, not the judge. The rules for closed hearings and sealed files have been in place since lawmakers created Family Court several decades ago,” attorney Marshal Willick wrote.

But Falconi’s second case demonstrates why his state court case is necessary, he said. 

He filed, also in state court, on Aug. 19, a challenge to his being denied entry into a family court proceeding – also at the Eighth Judicial District Court.

The state court appeared to agree and ordered parties to submit more information and invited amicus briefs to be filed in the case.

“This writ petition raises significant court-access questions and issues of statutory interpretation,” three judges wrote. They ordered Falconi to provide supplemental information “addressing the district court’s reliance on local court rules…”

They further said both of Falconi’s cases could be combined. 

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