Writs of Mandamus In Nevada

The Nevada Constitution grants this court the "power to issue writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, and habeas corpus." Nev. Const. art. 6, 4. The power to issue such writs is part of this court's original jurisdiction; it is not merely auxiliary to our appellate jurisdiction. State of Nevada v. McCullough, 3 Nev. 202, 214-16 (1867). A writ of mandamus is available to compel the performance of an act that the law requires as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station. NRS 34.160. Although this court has stated that a writ of mandamus does not lie to correct errors where action has been taken by the inferior tribunal, we have utilized mandamus to control an arbitrary or capricious exercise of discretion, see Round Hill Gen. Imp. Dist. v. Newman, 97 Nev. 601, 637 P.2d 534 (1981). A writ of mandamus generally will not issue, however, if the petitioner has a plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. See NRS 34.170. Further, mandamus is an extraordinary remedy, and it is within the discretion of this court to determine if a petition will be considered. See Poulos v. District Court, 98 Nev. 453, 455, 652 P.2d 1177, 1178 (1982). See, e.g., York v. Board of County Comm'rs, 89 Nev. 173, 509 P.2d 967 (1973); State v. District Court, 46 Nev. 25, 207 P. 80 (1922); State ex rel. Hetzel v. Board of Comm'rs, 8 Nev. 309 (1873); State of Nevada v. Wright, 4 Nev. 119 (1868). The approximate delays between entry of the district court orders and filing of the petitions are as follows: five months in Docket Nos. 32938 and 32940; six months in Docket Nos. 32936, 32939, and 32941; and eleven months in Docket No. 32937. This court has generally declined to entertain petitions for review of a lower court decision where that decision is appealable. See Ashokan v. State, Dep't of Ins., 109 Nev. 662, 665, 856 P.2d 244, 246 (1993). In Nevada, district courts have final appellate jurisdiction over cases arising in justice's court. Nev. Const. art. 6, 6; Tripp v. City of Sparks, 92 Nev. 362, 550 P.2d 419 (1976). We are not unmindful that entertaining petitions for review of a district court decision where the district court was acting in its appellate capacity would undermine the finality of the district court's appellate jurisdiction. Accordingly, as a general rule, we have declined to entertain writs that request review of a decision of the district court acting in its appellate capacity unless the district court has improperly refused to exercise its jurisdiction, has exceeded its jurisdiction, or has exercised its discretion in an arbitrary or capricious manner. Nonetheless, we have decided to exercise our constitutional prerogative to entertain the instant writ petitions. Although loath to deviate from our general practice, we do so in these cases for the following reason: various departments in the Justice's Court for the Las Vegas Township and the Eighth Judicial District Court have reached different conclusions on the significant issues of statewide concern raised by these petitions. Thus, there essentially is a split of authority amongst the lower courts. The only way this split can be resolved is for this court to exercise its constitutional prerogative to entertain these writ petitions. See Jeep Corp. v. District Court, 98 Nev. 440, 443, 652 P.2d 1183, 1185 (1982) (where circumstances reveal urgency or strong necessity, extraordinary relief may be granted); cf. State of Nevada v. Justice Court, 112 Nev. 803, 805 n.3, 919 P.2d 401, 402 n.3 (1996) (electing to entertain petition for writ of prohibition even though relief should have been sought first in district court "due to the exigent circumstances presented and because this case presented an unsettled issue of statewide importance").