Court Strikes Down County’s Coroners Inquest Process

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(Photo: Tate South/KXNT/CBS Las Vegas)

(Photo: Tate South/KXNT/CBS Las Vegas)

(Las Vegas CBS KXNT)  The Nevada Supreme Court has struck down on a technical issue the Clark County’s process for the coroner’s inquest,  the public investigation of citizen deaths by law enforcement.  But the court also denied a constitutional challenge to the process by five highway patrol officers who claimed it violates their constitutional rights to due process.

The court found that Clark County’s practice of using a justice of the peace as the hearing officer for inquests is at odds with Nevada law.  The state’s constituion says only the state legislature can determine the duties of a justice of the peace.  The ACLU of Nevada calls the decision a victory, because the technical problems cited by the court can be fixed.

The next move belongs to the county commission, which could bring the ordinance in line with state law and set the process back in motion, or scrap the inquest process in favor of allowing the District Attorney’s office to review the cases.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson’s office has reviewed the backlog of cases that’s developed over a two-year period while the inquest process was suspended due to the judicial proceedings.  Wolfson told KXNT this is the practice in most large jurisdictions.

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