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  • Writer's pictureAdam Breeden

Major Nevada Supreme Court Civil Rights Ruling

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

On December 29, 2022 the Nevada Supreme Court issued its most important civil rights case in its history, Mack v. Williams, 138 Nev. Advance Op. 86 (2022). This opinion greatly expanded civil rights litigation under the Nevada Constitution, as opposed to federal litigation on civil rights. The two major holding of the Mack case were: (1) a person may bring a private cause of action under the Nevada Constitution for violation of their state civil rights and (2) that state cause of action is not subject to the affirmative defense of qualified immunity.

The background facts of the case concerned a strip search of a visitor as a state prison. The visitor then sued saying she had been subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of her Nevada and Constitutional rights.

The first ruling—that a private cause of action under the Nevada Constitution existed at all—was a huge win. Prior to this decision, there was no clear ruling on that issue and most litigants relied on federal courts and the United States Constitution to bring their claims. Any asserted state claims were an afterthought. But the US District Court is not the most friendly venue for civil rights claimants. Its Judges often dismiss close cases, the Nevada Constitution protects more rights that the federal Constitution in some instances, and federal claims are subject to a judge-made “defense” of qualified immunity. Therefore, many civil rights litigants hope for a different system than the federal one.

The second ruling—that qualified immunity does not protect defendants—is also a game-changer. This means that closer cases that might get dismissed in federal court survive legal challenges based on Nevada Constitutional claims.

If you are confused about your rights, don’t be. Contact us today for a consultation.

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