For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Schaus, 702-222-0642
CARSON CITY, NV — In its legal fight to make the state’s political class and government agencies respect the Nevada Constitution’s separation of powers clause, the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation on Friday responded to filings by state senator Heidi Gansert and the University of Nevada Reno.
“In her motion to dismiss, Ms. Gansert essentially tried to unilaterally rewrite the Nevada constitution,” commented CJCL Director Joseph Becker. “But, as the late Justice Scalia once pointed out, the Constitution is like any other legal document. It says some things, and it doesn't say other things.”
Representing plaintiff Doug French, CJCL filed the suit February 21st, alleging Gansert is violating Article 3, Section 1 of Nevada’s State Constitution by occupying a seat in the state legislature while also working in Nevada’s executive branch. Mr. French seeks the position currently held by Ms. Gansert at the Nevada System of Higher Education.
Gansert asked the court to dismiss the suit, alleging that because she does not serve any “sovereign” function of the executive branch in her role at the University, the constitutional separation of powers clause does not apply to her.
However, as NPRI noted when Gansert originally filed her motion to dismiss, Article 3, Section 1 of Nevada’s constitution specifically states that it is illegal for one person to exercise any function in more than one branch of government — not merely a “sovereign” function.
“It’s difficult to imagine how much clearer the constitution could be on this issue,” commented Becker. “It says clearly that any member of one branch shall not exercise any functions, appertaining to either of the others.”
“If, as Ms. Gansert alleges, the constitution doesn’t mean what it says, how exactly would she re-word it so it is clearer on the issue?” asked Becker.
In addition to blatantly disregarding the clear language of the constitution, Gansert’s motion to dismiss highlights, ironically, one of the reasons for the provision in the first place.
“In fact, not only does the term ‘sovereign function’ never appear in the Nevada constitution, the word ‘sovereign’ only appears once — and at that, only in reference to stopping political careerism,” commented Becker.
The corruption and appearance of corruption brought about by political careerism is destructive to the proper functioning of the first branch of our representative government. Congress has grown increasingly distant from the People of the States. The People have the sovereign right and a compelling interest in creating a citizen Congress that will more effective [sic] protect our freedom and prosperity.
— Congressional Term Limits Act of 1996 as Added in 1998 (emphasis added).
“It’s fitting that Ms. Gansert not only tries to rewrite the constitution to fit her argument, but she does so by using a word that only appears in the constitution once — in a clause espousing the dangers of career politicians,” said Becker.
Both the Term Limits Act of 1996 and the separation of powers clause have a similar aim, according to Becker.
“Nevadans deserve a citizen legislature — not a political class of ruling elites. Both the separation of powers clause, and the Term Limits Act were aimed at limiting the potential for career politicians to profit off the taxpayers,” explained Becker.
“Perhaps some of these limitations on the ruling class are inconvenient for Ms. Gansert, but Nevadans deserve a form of self-governance. Not political elitism.”