The Rule of Law

Read this installment of “View from the Bench” written by Nevada’s Chief Justice Elissa Cadish.

By Chief Justice Elissa Cadish

Although I am writing this in late November, at the time you are reading this, it is January 2024, and I am proud to be the newest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada. As you are no doubt aware, so many things have become politicized in recent years, and unfortunately, that includes public opinion of courts. This is truly unfortunate, as our society depends on trust in the court system to fairly and consistently resolve disputes. Without that trust, I fear that over time, our society will devolve into anarchy, rather than governance by the rule of law.

As officers of the court, it is all of our jobs to ensure that the court system lives up to its promise of equal justice under law and to convey that it does so to the general public. We each must treat all parties and everyone involved in the court system with dignity and respect. Even losing parties need to feel that they have been heard and to understand the decision that was made. Judges need to take the time to listen and read the arguments presented by the parties and rule based on the facts and with consistent application of the law. In areas where courts have discretion, that discretion must be appropriately exercised with these principles in mind.

But this obligation does not fall only on judges. It also applies to all attorneys. Each attorney represents all of us and holds the reputation of the legal system in their hands. Attorneys cannot treat litigation as a game to be won at all costs or to see how much they can get away with. Whether dealing with civil, criminal, or family law cases, we all must follow the applicable statutes, procedural rules, and ethics rules. I am not saying you should not advocate vigorously for your clients, but you can do so within the bounds of fairness and ethics. Similarly, do not assume that any attorney who makes an error or does not disclose something they should have has acted in bad faith and must be called out and accused of ethics violations in a fiery motion for sanctions. Sometimes, people just make mistakes. Give them a chance to fix it (and, if appropriate, to bear the costs of the appropriate fixes) before throwing around nasty allegations. Convey to your clients the importance of professionalism and ethics, and help them understand that your compliance with these rules helps them in the long run. Too often, it seems the opposite happens: clients push attorneys to act in a way that is not appropriate, and attorneys agree to do so. We cannot feed into the narrative that everyone breaks the rules (or at least goes right up to that line) and that you are a sucker if you do not. It is up to each of us to model appropriate behavior and convey the message to the public that the system works when we do so. I urge you each to do your part.

About the author

Chief Justice Elissa Cadish was elected to the Supreme Court of Nevada in 2018, joining that court in 2019. She assumed the position of Chief Justice on January 2, 2024. Chief Justice Cadish served as a District Judge in the Eighth Judicial District Court from 2007 to 2018.

About the article

This article was originally published in the Communiqué (Jan. 2024), the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2024/communique-jan-2024/.

© 2024 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.

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