Recently, probate and guardianship matters in Clark County District Court were reorganized. The reorganization is detailed in an administrative order issued by outgoing Chief District Judge David Barker. Last week, more information about the reorganization was provided at a Probate/Guardianship Bench-Bar meeting. The information below is from the notes I took at that meeting.
Probate & Guardianship Matters Now Heard By Three Judges
All probate and guardianship matters will now be heard by three judges: Judge Gloria J. Sturman (District Court Department 26), Judge William S. Potter (Family Court Department M) and Judge Vincent Ochoa (Department S). Probate matters will be randomly assigned according to the following proportion:
- 80% of probate matters will be assigned to Judge Sturman in Department 26.
- 10% of probate matters will be assigned to Judge Potter in Department M.
- 10% of probate matters will be assigned to Judge Ochoa in Department S.
The three judges will also divide guardianship matters, though the proportion isn’t clear at this point.
The Role of the Probate Commissioner Remains Unchanged
Probate Commissioner Wesley Yamashita’s job will remain unchanged even though all probate matters will now be divided among three judges/departments.
In Clark County, there are around 150 probate matters on calendar each week. The overwhelming majority of these cases are simple, unopposed administrative matters. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of the calendar is prohibitive for a judge to handle by themselves, particularly when they have other non-probate cases. Thus, all probate matters are initially referred to the Probate Commissioner, who acts under the direction of the three probate judges. The Commissioner then makes decisions in uncontested matters and recommendations in litigated matters. Those decisions may be reviewed by one of the judges.
Thus, under the reorganization, Commissioner Yamashita will continue to initially hear all probate matters even though those matters have been assigned to one of the three judges. In short, Commissioner Yamashita will hear probate matters for Departments 26, M & S.
Three Judges and Probate Commissioner Now On 10th Floor of the Regional Justice Center
Conveniently, all three judges and the Probate Commissioner will use the Courtrooms on the 10th floor of the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas. Judge Sturman, Judge Potter and Judge Ochoa will have chambers on the 10th floor. Commissioner Yamashita and his staff will continue to be housed in the Phoenix Building, which is directly across the street from the Regional Justice Center.
Previously, probate matters were heard by Judge Sturman and Commissioner Yamashita at the Regional Justice Center (200 Lewis Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101). Meanwhile, guardianship matters were heard four miles away at the Family Courts & Services Center (601 N Pecos Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89155).
Physically consolidating probate and guardianship matters on the 10th floor of the Regional Justice Center will result in increased efficiency and convenience for the public, the judges and their staff and attorneys. It’s a smart move.
At the February 6 Bench-Bar meeting, Judge Gonzales said that the Clerk’s office at the Regional Justice Center will be able to file both probate and guardianship matters. Additionally, Guardianship matters can still be filed at the Clerk’s Office at the Family Courts & Services Center.
Probate & Guardianship Matters Cannot Be Consolidated, But May Be Heard By the Same Judge
In many states, such as California, probate/trust and guardianship matters can be consolidated. This allows for increased efficiency, particularly in contested matters. Though Nevada law does not allow for probate and guardianship matters to be formally consolidated, this new reorganization allows for the same judge to preside over both a probate/trust matter and the corresponding guardianship matter.
Previously, if a person became incapacitated, the trust portion would be heard by Judge Sturman/Commissioner Yamashita at the Regional Justice Center while the guardianship component would be heard by Judge Steel at the Family Courts and Services Center. This resulted in inefficiency and confusion.
Though probate/guardianship matters can’t be formally consolidated, a party or their counsel can file a file a Notice of Related Cases in order to make sure related matters are heard in the same department. Thus, one judge will preside over both the probate and guardianship components.