Two doctors facing medical malpractice claims scored a win after the Nevada Supreme Court held that a judge couldn’t rely on a disqualified judge’s mistrial order to award their opposition attorneys’ fees.
Former Eighth Judicial District Judge Rob Bare’s written mistrial order was void because the doctors had filed a motion to disqualify him after praising the other party’s attorney during trial, according to the ruling. As a result, the district court should vacate the costs award based on the mistrial motion and reconsider it, the court said Thursday.
Jason George Landess, also known as Kay George Landess, filed the medical malpractice claims against Kevin Paul Debiparshad, Jaswinder S. Grover, and related entities. Landess moved for a mistrial after an email admitted into evidence revealed inflammatory statements.
Debiparshad sought to disqualify Bare after he judge orally granted the mistrial motion but before he entered a written order reflecting the decision. The disqualification motion was granted, and former Judge Kerry Earley took over the case. She awarded Landess costs for the mistrial motion, “wholly incorporating and relying on” Bare’s written order, according to the ruling.
But once a motion to disqualify is filed, the judge can’t take any further action until it’s resolved, the state Supreme Court said. Landess argued the written order came after Bare orally declared a mistrial and was “ministerial in nature.” But an order granting a mistrial isn’t effective until it’s written, signed, and filed, the court said.
“Voiding the orders of a judge whose impartiality has reasonably been questioned promotes confidence in the judiciary,” the court said.
Chief Justice James W. Hardesty issued the opinion, joined by Justices Lidia S. Stiglich and Abbi Silver.
Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP and Lemons, Grundy & Eisenberg represented the doctors. James J. Jimmerson of Las Vegas and Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC represented Landess.
The case is Debiparshad v. Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct. of Nev., Nev., No. 81596, 12/2/21.