About the Nevada State District Courts and Judges

Nevada State District Courts and Judges

The Nevada state court system is made up of District Courts, which are the trial courts of general jurisdiction where most legal disputes get resolved. There are 11 judicial districts in Nevada covering all 17 counties[1]. The District Courts handle criminal, civil, family, and juvenile cases[1]. Let’s take a closer look at how these courts are organized and who the judges are that preside over them.

Organization of the District Courts

There are currently 82 District Court judges across the 11 judicial districts in Nevada[6]. The districts are organized as follows:

  • First Judicial District – Carson City and Storey County. 2 judges.
  • Second Judicial District – Washoe County. 15 judges (6 family court, 9 civil/criminal court) [6].
  • Third Judicial District – Lyon County. 2 judges[6].
  • Fourth Judicial District – Elko County. 3 judges[6].
  • Fifth Judicial District – Esmeralda County and Nye County. 2 judges[6].
  • Sixth Judicial District – Humboldt County. 1 judge[6].
  • Seventh Judicial District – Eureka County, Lincoln County, and White Pine County. 2 judges[6].
  • Eighth Judicial District – Clark County (serves the Las Vegas area and is the largest district). 52 judges (20 family court, 32 civil/criminal court) [6].
  • Ninth Judicial District – Douglas County. 2 judges[6].
  • Tenth Judicial District – Churchill County. 1 judge[6].
  • Eleventh Judicial District – Pershing County, Lander County, and Mineral County. 1 judge[6].

As you can see, the Second Judicial District (Washoe County) and Eighth Judicial District (Clark County) are the busiest, with the most judges and widest variety of specialized court programs[1]. The District Court judges are elected to six-year terms in nonpartisan elections[2]. When mid-term vacancies occur, the Commission on Judicial Selection nominates candidates to be appointed by the Governor[5].

Jurisdiction and Powers of District Courts

The District Courts are courts of “general jurisdiction,” meaning they can hear any type of case, criminal or civil[1]. Their jurisdiction includes:

  • Criminal cases – all felonies and gross misdemeanors
  • Civil cases – any dispute over $10,000
  • Family cases – divorce, child custody, guardianship
  • Juvenile cases – crimes and issues involving minors

District Courts have the power to conduct jury trials, bench trials, hearings, and other proceedings to resolve legal disputes. They can issue subpoenas, decide questions of law and fact, enforce court orders, impose sentences, award damages, and grant injunctions and other equitable relief.

The District Court judges also have some administrative powers over the court system. The Chief Judge in each district can assign cases, make local court rules, and manage the court’s caseload and operations[3].

Role in Nevada’s Judicial System

The District Courts play a critical role in Nevada’s judicial branch. They are the main trial courts where evidence is presented and the facts of legal disputes are determined[1]. Their decisions establish legal precedents that guide future cases.

The District Courts interact with Nevada’s other courts in a few key ways:

  • They hear appeals from the limited jurisdiction Municipal and Justice Courts[6].
  • Their rulings and judgments can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Nevada and Court of Appeals[6].
  • The Supreme Court has administrative oversight of the District Courts and can establish rules and policies for them[1].

So in many ways, the District Courts act as the hub of Nevada’s judicial system – taking in cases from lower courts, and sending their own cases up to the higher appellate courts for review.

Common Court Proceedings

There are a variety of legal proceedings that take place in the District Courts as they resolve disputes in criminal, civil, family, and juvenile cases. Some of the most common proceedings include:

Criminal Cases

  • Arraignments – The defendant is formally charged and enters a plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest).
  • Preliminary hearings – The judge determines if there is enough evidence to go to trial.
  • Plea bargains – Defendants negotiate plea deals with the prosecution to avoid trial.
  • Trials – The case is argued before a judge or jury, evidence is presented, and a verdict is rendered.
  • Sentencing hearings – For guilty verdicts, the judge determines the penalty and punishment.

Civil Cases

  • Pre-trial conferences – The parties meet with the judge to discuss readiness for trial and possibility of settlement.
  • Settlement conferences – The parties and their attorneys discuss settlement options with the judge’s assistance.
  • Trials – The plaintiff presents evidence arguing their case, then the defendant argues their side, and the judge or jury decides.
  • Injunction hearings – The judge determines whether to order a party to do or stop doing something.

Family Cases

  • Temporary orders – The judge makes short-term rulings on issues like child custody and support.
  • Settlement conferences – The parties try to resolve divorce and custody issues through mediation and negotiation.
  • Trials – Contested divorce and custody matters get resolved by judge or jury if settlement fails.
  • Adoption proceedings – Hearings to finalize stepparent or other types of adoptions.

Specialty Court Programs

Many of the Nevada District Courts operate “specialty courts” within their jurisdictions that offer alternatives to traditional litigation for certain types of cases. Some examples include:

  • Drug courts – Supervised treatment and community services for drug-related offenses.
  • Mental health courts – Connects offenders with mental health treatment and social services.
  • Veterans courts – Rehabilitation focused program for veterans in the criminal justice system.
  • Truckee River Court – Addresses offenses committed by homeless individuals in Reno.
  • Back on Track – Diversion program for first time DUI offenders in Las Vegas.

These specialty courts provide a more holistic approach to certain crimes and offenders. They aim to address root causes and change behavior through counseling, education, community service and other rehabilitative programming overseen by judges.

Custody Rights After Stepparent Adoption

When a stepparent legally adopts their stepchildren, they become the full legal parent with all associated rights and responsibilities. This means if the adoptive stepparent and the biological parent divorce, custody rights are determined the same as any other divorce involving two legal parents.

Some key things to know:

  • The adoptive stepparent has equal standing to seek legal and physical custody.
  • Courts will determine custody based on the child’s best interests, looking at factors like caregiving roles, emotional bonds, living situation stability, etc.
  • The adoptive stepparent may be obligated to pay child support if not granted primary custody.
  • It is very difficult to terminate an adoptive parent’s rights, even in favor of the biological parent.

Adoption requires consent of both biological parents or proof of abandonment. If properly adopted, the stepparent is as much the child’s legal parent as the biological parent. Custody rights flow from this parental status if the marriage dissolves.


In summary, the Nevada District Courts utilize specialty courts and innovative programs to provide alternatives to traditional litigation in certain cases. When a stepparent legally adopts their stepchildren, they obtain full parental rights and responsibilities, including the right to seek custody if they divorce the biological parent.