Monthly Archives: May 2010

One of Nevada’s First Registered Domestic Partnership Adoptions of a Minor Child

Recently, our firm successfully facilitated one of Nevada’s first Registered Domestic Partnership adoption, since the enactment of the Nevada Registered Domestic Partnership Act, NRS Chapter 122A.

Nevada’s Registered Domestic Partnership Act grants domestic partners “the same rights, protections and benefits,” and subjects them to “the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law… as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.” NRS 122A.200(1)(a).

With this legal recognition, registered domestic partners are able to adopt their partner’s children as if the partners were spouses. Consequently, the process by which one partner can adopt the other’s children is simplified. For example, the consent requirement set forth in NRS 127.043 is inapplicable when “the spouse of a petitioner is related to the child within the third degree of consanguinity.” NRS 127.043(2). Likewise, the investigation and affidavit filing mandates enumerated in NRS 127.120 and 127.127 are also rendered inapplicable under the same circumstances.

However, one issue that remains potentially problematic even in light of the enactment of NRS Chapter 122A is artificial insemination. In the instance where the child sought to be adopted by one domestic partner was conceived by the other domestic partner via artificial insemination, the question arises as to whether the petitioning domestic partner must first obtain the natural father’s consent to the adoption (which is unlikely considering his unidentified status), or whether the partner must move to terminate the unidentified donor’s parental rights prior to petitioning for adoption.

Nevada does not have any statutes or caselaw addressing an unidentified donor’s rights to a child conceived from his donation. Unlike Nevada, California appears to be more advanced in the law regarding artificial insemination issues, as evidenced by California Family Code §7613(b). §7613(b) provides, “The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician and surgeon or to a licensed sperm bank for use in artificial insemination… of a woman other than the donor’s wife is treated in law as if he were not the natural father thereby conceived.” (Emphasis added.)

Due to the lack of authority on artificial insemination in Nevada, coupled with Nevada’s new Registered Domestic Partnership Act, it will be interesting to see whether courts will make the recently simplified adoption process for domestic partners a bit more time consuming by requiring a petitioning partner to conduct the seemingly arbitrary exercise of moving to terminate an unidentified donor’s parental rights prior to filing a petitioning for adoption.

O.J. Simpson Affects Jury Selection in Nevada. Stephens Media, LLC v. Distr. Ct., 125 Nev. ___, 221 P.3d 1240 (2009).

O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial in Las Vegas has raised a significant legal issue by which the First Amendment right to free press competes with a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. The Nevada Supreme Court recently ruled that once the district court weighs and balances the competing factors, juror questionnaires can be made public and must be given to the media. The obvious concern is the personal information divulged by prospective jurors that is made public. Trial lawyers argue that this invasion into prospective jurors’ privacies is unconstitutional and should be avoided. The media argues that since jury selection is part of the public trial, all information gleaned therefrom should be considered public.

Soon, Nevada and other states’ courts will have to struggle with whether jury questionnaires are available to the media in civil trials. See [cite case]

Courts’ Increasing Concern with Jurors’ Social Networking Capabilities.

When serving as a juror, most individuals are in a place and system they know little about, except through such sources as the press, television, movies and more recently the digital media. Cell phones now provide jurors with the ability to communicate about the trial with the outside world. Juror misconduct in this regard is becoming an increasingly serious issue with the administration of justice. Jurors have the capability to instantaneously tweet, blog, text, e-mail, phone and look up facts and information during breaks, at home or even in the jury room if they are allowed to keep their digital access to the world while serving as a juror. And despite the prohibition of cameras in the courtroom, most cell phones are equipped with camera and video capabilities.

Judges throughout Nevada take different approaches in addressing this potential form of jury misconduct. Some do not allow jurors to have their cell phones. Others give jury instructions on a daily basis.

As trial lawyers we advocate a compromise that allows jurors to alleviate anxiety, while still protecting sanctity of the jury trial process. First, the matter must be addressed in jury selection by the trial court. Second, an instruction should be given to the jury each day that includes follow-up reminders from the judge that any outside contact through electronic means concerning the trial, the lawyers, the witnesses, or any facet of the trial is prohibited and can cause a mistrial. It has been our experience that jurors are respectful of the need to prevent a mistrial and are mindful of the consequences if repeatedly reminded that contact with the outside world concerning trial issues is strictly prohibited.

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