Lorton v. Jones - Winter Street Law Group

As stated by a local university Professor, the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision in Lorton v. Jones, 322 P.3d 1051 (2014), spearheaded by Stephanie Rice, holding that the limitations imposed under Article 15, Section 3(2) of the Nevada Constitution prohibit an individual who has served for 12 years or more as a council member from running for mayor of Reno has, “completely reshaped the political landscape of this City for many years to come.” .

 

BACKGROUND

The City of Reno is a municipal corporation, governed under Nevada state laws through a City Charter that has been approved by the Legislature. The Reno City Charter vests the City’s legislative power in the City council, which consists of six city council members and the mayor. One of the city council members and the mayor represent the city at large, and the other members each represent one of Reno’s five wards.

Jessica Sferrazza represented Ward 3 on the Reno city council for 12 years, ending in 2012. At the time, Dwight Dortch represented Ward 4 and would have served for 12 years when his term ended in 2014. Both Sferrazza and Dortch sought to run for mayor of Reno in the 2014 election.

Another citizen of Reno, George “Eddie” Lorton, also committed to running for the mayor seat. Mr. Lorton filed a writ petition directly with the Nevada Supreme Court seeking extraordinary relief preventing the inclusion of either Ms. Sferrazza or Mr. Dortch on the 2014 ballot for the mayoral race. Mr. Lorton argued that because both Ms. Sferrazza and Mr. Dortch served or would have served 12 years as city council members, they were ineligible to run for mayor pursuant to Article 15, Section 3(2) of the Nevada Constitution.

 

SUMMARY

Article 15, Section 3(2) of the Nevada Constitution prohibits an individual from being “elected to any state office or local governing body [if he or she] has served in that office, or at the expiration of his [or her] current term [he or she] will have served, 12 years or more.” The parties did not dispute that the “local governing body” of the City of Reno, Nevada, is the Reno City Council, which is made up of six council members and the mayor. The issue presented to the Court was whether an individual who has served for 12 years or more as a city council member is thereafter prohibited, by the limitations imposed under Article 15, Section 3(2), from running for mayor of Reno. Due to the fact that the Reno City Charter defines the mayor a member of the city’s “local governing body” for all purposes, the Nevada Supreme Court held that Article 15, Section 3(2) prohibits term-limited city council members from thereafter being elected as mayor of Reno and granted Mr. Lorton’s petition for writ relief.

 

CONCLUSION

Under Article 15, Section 3(2) of the Nevada Constitution, a term-limited city council member is thereafter barred from being elected mayor of Reno. Ms. Sferrazza and Mr. Dortch each would have served on the Reno city council for 12 years by the end of the then current term; and as such, the Court found them to be ineligible to be elected as Reno’s mayor.

 

Read the opinion here.

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