Supremes rule

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled against Sparks City Councilmember Mike Carrigan in his latest round with the Nevada Ethics Commission.

The court had previously supported Carrigan when he argued that the Ethics Commission interfered with his freedom of expression by admonishing him for voting on a casino project supported by his campaign manager (“Ethics or expression,” RN&R, April 28, 2011). The city attorney had advised him he could vote.

But the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Nevada Supreme Court, finding that an officeholder's vote “symbolizes nothing” and so is not protected free expression.

Carrigan then returned to court and argued that the Nevada statute dealing with conflict-of-interest recusal is unconstitutionally vague, thus violating due process, and that it unconstitutionally burdens freedom of association between elected officials and their supporters.

The court disagreed with Carrigan on both counts. The case is Carrigan v. Commission on Ethics.

In another case, the Nevada court upheld the Nevada press shield statute in a matter where Aspen Financial Services tried to force a television news producer, Dana Gentry, to testify in an action against guests who appeared on a show she produced. Lawyers for the corporation argued they were not subpoenaing her as a news producer, but in her personal capacity. The court ruled that the corporation used a subterfuge—a claim that she had accepted gifts that compromised her news judgment—to try to learn her sources, which is barred by the law.

“[A]lthough Aspen claims that it is not seeking Gentry's sources because it already knows who those sources are, the circumstances of this case demonstrate that Aspen actually is effectively seeking to confirm the identities of Gentry's sources,” the court ruled. The case is Aspen Financial Services v. Eighth Judicial District Court and Dana Gentry.