Jury Trials for Termination of Parental Rights and Relocation of Children
Article I, Section 3 of the Nevada Constitution states that the “[T]he right of trial by Jury shall be secured to all and remain inviolate forever, but a Jury trial may be waived by the parties in all civil cases in the manner to be prescribed by law…” The Constitution guarantees the right, and leaes it up to the Legislature to provide the means and ways by which the right is to be enforced. Obanion v. Simpson, 44 Nev. 188, 191 P. 1083, 1920 Nev. LEXIS 24 (1920). The right to a jury trial even extends to Nevada justice courts where small amount of money are involved (Aftercare of Clark County v. Justice Court, 120 Nev. 1, 82 P.3d 931 (2004)), though the right does not extend to small claims courts due to the need to provide for a speedy cost-effective resolution to cases..
Nevada’s family courts are part of the District Court. Yet, family court has no provision for jury trials and the courtrooms do not even have a jury box. No jury waivers are requested of, or made by, the litigants. This is the case notwithstanding the fact that crucial issues such as the termination of parental rights, relocation of a child away from one of the parents, and division of community property and other key decisions are routinely made, cutting to the very core of a person’s fundamental rights to raise a child and to enjoy his/her property.
The NRS needs to make clear that litigants in family court have a right to a jury trial to be exercised in the same manner as in other district courts.