Tips for Practicing Administrative Law

Here’s a quick read related to the practice of administrative law in Nevada that was published in the Clark County Bar journal Communiqué (April 2023).

The practice of administrative law in Nevada may be an experience with which you have very little familiarity whether you are brand new to the practice of law or a seasoned attorney with several years under your belt. Administrative law practice differs crucially from civil or criminal proceedings in that each administrative proceeding is governed not just by general provisions contained in Nevada law but also by agency-specific administrative rules found throughout the Nevada Administrative Code (NAC).

The general provisions governing contested administrative actions in Nevada are found in NRS 233B.121-150. From there, most state-level administrative agencies have promulgated rules of procedure for administrative actions that vary widely between each agency and which are completely dependent on the type of administrative action filed.

For example, the Secretary of State’s Securities Division is governed by the Nevada Securities Act, which is codified in NRS 90. All corresponding regulations relating to an administrative action brought under the authority of the Securities Act are found in Nevada Administrative Code Chapter 90 (NAC 90). The Nevada Securities Act governs the purchase and sale of securities in Nevada as well as the licensing of individuals and firms who are authorized to either sell securities or recommend as to the advisability of the same.

Violations of the Securities Act are category B felonies (NRS 90.650). However, NRS 90.790 also allows the Division Administrator to commence administrative proceedings at any time “with respect to a matter within the Administrator’s jurisdiction.” In practice, that means that violations of the Securities Act often result in administrative complaints as opposed to criminal prosecution.

NAC 90 provides general procedure for administrative actions within the Securities Division. For example, NAC 90 describes requirements for service, responsive pleadings, motions, discovery, the location and conduct of the hearing, and provisions for rendering an order as well as granting or denying a petition for rehearing. All respondents are entitled to be represented by counsel. Although, in order for out-of-state counsel to appear at a hearing, they must associate with counsel admitted to practice in Nevada.

Most administrative agencies similarly initiate contested cases by filing an administrative complaint. Before responding to an administrative complaint, properly research the corresponding administrative code to the relevant chapter of the Nevada Revised Statutes upon which the complaint is based. If there are procedural areas that are unclear even after reviewing the provisions found in NRS and NAC, then follow the provisions of NRS 233B governing adjudication of contested administrative matters for state agencies within the executive department of the state government. However, that chapter is not intended to abrogate or limit additional requirements from state agencies, but to provide regulations where the agency-specific rules are silent or simply do not exist.

The wide variations for administrative rules across various state agencies can present as a challenge to the process of advocating for a client that has been made the subject of an administrative process. However, a careful review of the specific administrative agency’s rules will provide most information required to respond timely and effectively.

When in doubt, consider contacting the administrative agency directly for specific information on from where they are deriving their legal authority and the administrative rules relevant to that proceeding.

About this article: This article was originally published in the “Administrative Law” issue of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, (Apr. 2023). See https://clarkcountybar.org/member-benefits/communique-2023/communique-apr-2023/.

About the author
Erin Houston

Erin M. Houston, Esq. was appointed Securities Administrator and Deputy Secretary of State in January 2019. She oversees the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s office and is the chief regulator of the securities industry in Nevada. Before that, she worked in private practice primarily in the areas of bankruptcy, domestic relations, guardianship, and estate planning. She has been an active member of the State Bar of Nevada since 2010.

© 2023 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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