The Nevada Appellate Courts have a unique structure, one approved by the state’s voters less than a decade ago. There are two entities that ultimately may hear appeals of District Court rulings: the Supreme Court of Nevada and the Nevada Court of Appeals.

How do you know which one will hear your case? You don’t, because it’s not your decision to make – it’s actually up to the Supreme Court.

How cases flow through the Appellate Courts

In Nevada’s Appellate Courts, the first step is always the same. Any time someone files an appeal of a District Court ruling, it goes to the Supreme Court of Nevada. Once there, the Supreme Court sifts through the cases and makes a choice.

The Supreme Court can choose to hear the case directly, or, it can assign the case to the Court of Appeals. If the Supreme Courts reassigns the case, then the three judges that compose the Court of Appeals will hear the appeal. This process, approved by voters in 2014, is known as a “deflective model.”

How does the Supreme Court decide?

The Supreme Court of Nevada sends about one-third of all submitted cases (approximately 700 total) to the Court of Appeals each year. How does the Supreme Court make its decision? There is no hard and fast rule.

Generally, the Supreme Court wants to hold on to important cases with wide impact, ones that may affect public policy or “raise questions of first impression.” These cases, the court says, often deserve precedent-setting published opinions, and therefore take time to properly prepare.

Those cases that do not appear to be precedent-setting are assigned to the Court of Appeals.

In some circumstances, there may be advantages to having your appeal heard by one court or the other. This means you will need a sound legal strategy, one crafted by people who understand what the Supreme Court is looking for when deciding whether to reassign a case to the Court of Appeals.

While the final decision isn’t yours to make, there are strategies that can push the odds of the Supreme Court’s choice more in your favor.