Our Love/Hate Relationship with HOAs

Homeowners have a love/hate relationship with their Homeowner Associations (HOAs).   You rarely hear someone say, “I love my HOA Board.”  The purpose of an HOA is to preserve, maintain and enhance the homes and property within the subdivision.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  But not all HOAs are equal.  An HOA that regulates that neighbor with a weed-ridden front yard or a broken-down Chevy in the driveway is a blessing.  However, when that same HOA tells us that when and where we can put our trash cans out, we aren’t appreciative.  I am not a fan of someone telling me what I can do with my property and land.  But I do understand the utility of an HOA Board.

Community living comes with its own dynamics. Close quarters and shared spaces can—and often does—lead to conflict: a conflict between neighbors, the association board of directors, and members; and also between the board or members and management.  Unlike other locales, Nevada requires that members of common interest communities go to the Office of the Ombudsman of the Nevada Real Estate Division for conflict resolution before filing a lawsuit.

Before any civil action can be taken regarding a dispute relating to governing documents of a common-interest community (homeowners association), the disputing parties must complete the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 38. Further, if a homeowner association provides a scheme of dispute resolution, that procedure must be exhausted before submitting an ADR claim to the Nevada Real Estate Division, Office of the Ombudsman.

The ADR programs include: 
• The Referee Program
• Mediation
• Arbitration

  1. The Referee Program – The referee program allows disputing parties to present their case to an independent referee. Both parties must agree to participate in the program to proceed. The referee can bring the parties together, listen to both sides of the dispute, review the evidence and governing documents and then make a non-binding decision on the matter. The referee is authorized to make monetary awards of up to $7,500. The referee may not award attorneys’ fees. The parties may then proceed to civil court if they wish to pursue the matter further.
  2. Mediation – As of October 1, 2013, NRS 38 mandates that mediation is the default method of resolution, should both parties not agree to participate in the referee program. The parties to the mediation provide the mediator a statement and relevant documents about the dispute, including a statement concerning an acceptable resolution. The mediator works with the parties to resolve the dispute with a written agreement.
  3. Non-Binding or Binding Arbitration –This option is available if mediation fails and both parties agree to proceed through either form of arbitration in place of initiating a claim through civil court. Each of the parties has an opportunity to present his or her case and witnesses if any. The arbitrator upon conclusion of the hearing renders a decision, after which either party may proceed to civil court.

For more information, please contact the Nevada Real Estate Division, Las Vegas,
realest@red.nv.gov, P: (702) 486-4033.


Tanika M. Capers, Esq.


As we are seeing daily, construction is booming in Las Vegas.  This has led to an increase in property values and taxes, and for some tenants, an increase in rental prices.  This article addresses rent increases in dwellings under Chapter 118A and manufactured home parks under Chapter 118B of the Nevada Revised Statutes.

In dwellings under Chapter 118A, a landlord must give the tenant 45 days written notice of the intended increase prior to the first rental payment being due.  If there is a written lease agreement with a specified rent amount, the landlord is not permitted to increase the rent during the term of the lease.  However, if the lease provides for a rent increase at the end of the term or if the landlord gives written notice to the tenant 45 days before the lease is due to expire, the new rate will apply at the expiration of the term, provided the tenant continues to occupy the premises.  In a periodic tenancy with a term of less than one month, the landlord is only required to give 15 days’ written notice (NRS 118A.300).

In addition to the requirements of the above, a landlord may not increase rent in retaliation against a tenant (NRS 118A.510(1)).  For example, if a tenant complains of a health code violation, joins a tenant’s union, or terminates their rental agreement as a result of domestic violence, the landlord may not increase the rent in retaliation.  There is a similar to statute relating to retaliatory conduct by a landlord under Chapter 118B.  For a complete list of the prohibited retaliatory conduct, refer to NRS 118B.210.

Currently, Nevada does not have any “rent control” laws and landlords may increase the rent to any amount which the market will bear.

For space rentals in manufactured home parks under Chapter 118B, a landlord must give written notice to the tenant 90 days prior to the first increased payment (NRS 118B.150(1)(a)(3)).  The notice must be given to the tenant either by personal service or by first-class mail (NRS 118B.030).  Any rent increase must result in the same rent charged for manufactured homes of the same size or lots of the same size or of a similar location within the park (NRS 118B.150(1)(a)(1)).  Landlords under Chapter 118B should also be aware that when a service, utility or amenity is decreased or eliminated, the rent must be reduced proportionately (NRS 118B.153).  For instance, if a manufactured home park offers landscaping services included in the monthly rent, and later decides to eliminate this service, the rent must be reduced proportionately.

If you have questions about rent increases, required notices, or retaliatory conduct, contact an attorney.

Mental Health Pt2

Last month, we noted May is “Mental Health Month” and that Nevada has a substantial shortage of mental health professionals but ranks near last in access to mental health care (Mental Health America, 2018). News 4 and Fox 11 in Reno on February 21 of this year, ran a story by Kim Burrows, named “Nevada is Dead Last for mental health, State working on a fix.”How mental health services are limited across Nevada. In Reno, one of the largest behavioral health service providers closed its doors last year. It cited a financial shortfall with government funding partners as a reason why. Since then, Renown opened the Stacie Mathewson Behavioral Health and Addiction Institute.
Charles Duarte the Chief Executive Officer for the Community Health Alliance says there’s a stigma associated with a mental health condition and there shouldn’t be. He runs a non-profit organization that has six community health centers in Washoe County that provide primary medical, dental and behavioral health and nutrition services for 30,000 patients every year.

Duarte is on one of four regional behavioral health policy boards created in 2017. Each submitted bills for this legislative session to address mental health care.
AB47 – Creates a pilot approach in rural Nevada to train law enforcement officers and first responders in crisis intervention training. It also provides funding to transport those people for evaluation and treatment.
AB66 – Proposes to create crisis stabilization centers in Washoe and Clark County. There would be eight-bed facilities and patients would stay no more than 14 days.
AB85 – Enhances the 72-hour legal hold to evaluate and stabilize a patient. Part of the bill would allow for transportation by someone other than law enforcement.
AB76 – Allows the four regional behavioral boards to hire additional staff to gather research.
Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, is the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services. He says Nevada needs to step up its game when it comes to mental health services. “It’s horrible for the state of Nevada and what we need to be doing as state leaders are really addressing this issue,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with this since the 1980s and finally we’re having honest conversations about how important this is.”
A stabilization center in AB66 was modeled after a program in Maricopa County, Arizona. “The reports out of Phoenix for 2016 for this program suggested that over 300 million dollars in hospital savings were achieved by having these types of services available,” Duarte said. Maricopa County also reports that it saved the equivalent of 37 police officers who are no longer tied up dropping off patients at the hospital or jail.
Things are definitely looking up for our State. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said he’d make mental health a priority. He mentioned it in his State of the State address. “That’s why I recommend adding new staff that will focus on mental health and substance abuse,” he said earlier this year.

While the Legislature is at work in addressing our dire mental health needs in Nevada, there are some resources available. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is an advocacy organization helping to get people in touch with services and provide information about mental illness. If you need behavioral or mental health information or help, NAMI has a helpline. The HelpLine is a free service that provides information, referrals, and support to people living with a mental health condition, family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. A well-trained and knowledgeable team of volunteers, interns, and HelpLine staff will respond to your call or message.
The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is “Mental Health Month” and I was surprised that not only does Nevada have a substantial shortage of mental health professionals but ranks near last in access to mental health care (Mental Health America, 2018). “We have a huge shortage of psychiatrists here in Las Vegas,” Dr. Gregory P. Brown, a psychiatrist in Las Vegas who runs the Psychiatry Residency Training Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, reported.  See, The Cut, Science of Us, Oct. 4. 2017.  “There’s a crisis-level shortage right now.” Las Vegas has five psychiatrists per 100,000 residents while similarly-sized metro areas like Kansas City and Sacramento have double that figure. New York City has about six times the figure.

In addition, we rank near the bottom in the country for higher prevalence of mental illness (Nevada Hospital Association)–  a ranking that encompasses six metrics ranging from mental illness and substance-abuse rates, to the number of citizens who’ve considered suicide or suffered a depressive episode — yet offers the least access to mental-health care compared to every other U.S. state.  About 68 percent of people in Nevada who suffer from impaired mental health do not receive treatment.  The Cut, Science of Us, Oct. 4. 2017.

In a psychiatric emergency, the more you know about your state’s laws and treatment options, the better prepared you will be to respond in the most effective way possible.  Nevada law allows for admission to mental health facilities through three procedures: emergency admission, voluntary admission, or involuntary civil commitment. The last of these procedures require judicial involvement.  Emergency Admission and the special circumstances pertaining to the commitment of minors will be discussed next month.


Voluntary Commitment

The law allows for individuals to apply for voluntary commitment or admission to any facility for treatment. NRS 433A.140. This procedure entails an individual presenting themselves to a facility and submitting to an examination by admission personnel, who determine whether such an individual would benefit from treatment. A person who voluntarily admits himself to a facility must be immediately released upon submitting a written request. The facility has 24 hours after the request is filled to change the status of the person to an emergency admission pursuant to NRS 433A.145.

Involuntary Commitment

The most frequent arena where mental health and law intersect in the area of involuntary civil commitment. A mentally ill individual may be detained in a mental health facility for up to 72 hours on an emergency, non-court ordered basis for evaluation and treatment. A person must be released by the end of the 72 hour evaluation period, including weekends and holidays, unless during the 72 hour period, a petition is filed with the court for involuntary admission.  NRS 433A.150.

A mentally ill individual is involuntarily committed when an individual with standing files a petition with the court. The petition must be accompanied by:

(a)        A certificate of a physician or licensed psychologist stating that he has examined the person alleged to be mentally ill and has concluded that as a result of mental illness the person is likely to harm himself or others; or

(b)        A sworn written statement by the petitioner that:

(1)            The petitioner has probable cause to believe that the person is mentally ill and, because of that illness is likely to harm himself or others; and

(2)            The person has refused to submit to examination or treatment by a physician, psychiatrist or licensed psychologist.

A court must hear an involuntary commitment petition within 14 days of the emergency admission or filing of the petition, whichever is less. The individual is entitled to counsel, either private or court appointed. The court must order two psychologists or psychiatrists (one must be an M.D.) to examine the individual and submit their findings to the court 48 hours prior to the hearing. In order to find that an individual may be involuntarily committed, the court must find, by clear and convincing evidence that the individual is mentally ill or exhibits observable behavior such that he is likely to harm himself or others if allowed to remain at liberty.  NRS 433A.200 to 433A.310.

An involuntary commitment automatically expires at the end of 6 months if not terminated previously by the medical director of the public or private mental health facility.  At the end of the court-ordered period of treatment, the Division, or any non-division mental health facility, may petition to renew the detention of the person for additional periods not to exceed 6 months each. For each renewal, the petition must set forth to the court specific reasons why further treatment would be in the persons own best interests.  NRS 433A.310.

An individual may be conditionally released when the medical facility deems it appropriate. However, if an individual was held as a danger to others, he may be conditionally released only if, at the time of the release, written notice is given to the court which admitted him and to the district attorney of the county in which the proceedings for admission were held.


Every individual admitted to a mental health facility is entitled to enumerate and basic rights. Every patient has the right to treatment, to participate in his treatment plan to the extent possible and receive considerate and respectful care. Every patient has the right to refuse treatment to the extent permitted by law and to refuse to participate in any medical experiments conducted at the facility. Although a patient has the right to refuse medication, this decision may be overridden by the physicians’ medical opinion that the individual is a danger to others or himself and that the medication will be beneficial. All individuals, however, have the unfettered right to be free from unnecessary medication or over-medication.  NRS 449.720.

Every individual admitted is entitled to full confidentiality of his medical records, condition, and treatment. Notice of procedures, hearings and enumerated rights must be given to the patient in a timely fashion.

NRS 433A.350 – 433A.360.

This month is intended to raise awareness about mental health and related issues. Although attitudes appear to be changing around the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, negative attitudes have existed since the late 1940s, when the first National Mental Health Awareness Week was launched. In the 1960s, the campaign was extended to an entire month in May. During this month, let’s educate ourselves on mental illness.  As the good book says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”  Stay tuned for next month’s mental health awareness article.


If you don’t know what Ganga means, good for you.  It’s also known by the names, Mary Jane, Weed, Dope, Grass, Mary Jane & Reefer.  If you still don’t know what  I am speaking of…I am speaking of MARIJUANA.  Marijuana has made its way into every facet of our lives whether we want it too or not. And yes, this includes the workplace.

While the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), criminalizes marijuana, at least 44 states, including Nevada, have enacted medical marijuana laws purporting to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Nevada’s medical marijuana statute decriminalizes medical marijuana usage and purports to create significant employee protections.

NRS 453A.800 requires that employers attempt to make reasonable accommodations for the medical needs of an employee who engages in the medical use of marijuana if the employee holds a valid registry identification card if such reasonable accommodation would not:

  • Pose a threat of harm or danger to persons or property, or
    • impose an undue hardship on the employer;
    • or prohibit the employee from fulfilling any and all of his
      • or her job responsibilities.

Notably, this statute does not require any employer to allow the use or possession of marijuana in the workplace. The statute also does not require an employer to modify the job or working conditions of a person who engages in the medical use of marijuana that is based upon the reasonable business purposes of the employer.

Nevada also recently joined the growing number of states that have decriminalized recreational marijuana usage. Nevada’s recreational marijuana law, however, provides no affirmative employment law protections.  These developments have left both employers and employees in a haze of uncertainty regarding their rights and obligations to regulate and/or use marijuana in and outside of the workplace, with some employees mistakenly believing the decriminalization of marijuana invalidates employer policies prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana in the workplace. Some of that haze can be clarified, but some will remain until the Nevada Supreme Court provides definitive guidance.

 No Protection for Possession or Use of Marijuana on Company Premises or While on Duty

Nevada’s laws permitting marijuana for both medical and recreational uses make clear that employers can prohibit the use or possession of marijuana while on duty and in the workplace. Nevada’s Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, regarding the legalization of recreational use, provides that the act does not prohibit an employer, “from maintaining, enacting, and enforcing a workplace policy prohibiting or restricting actions or conduct otherwise permitted under this chapter.” NRS 453D.100(2). Likewise, in 2013 the Nevada Legislature clarified that Nevada’s medical marijuana legislation does not require an employer to allow medical use of marijuana in the workplace. NRS 453A.800(2).

No Protection for Recreational Use

Nevada’s decriminalization of the recreational use of marijuana did not in any way impact Nevada employers’ ability to maintain substance abuse policies, including those that call for the termination of employees testing positive for marijuana. Employers that maintain policies prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana in the workplace, or being under the influence of marijuana in the workplace, remain free to enforce those policies and take disciplinary action against employees violating those policies through recreational use of marijuana.

Two important issues related to marijuana usage by employees in Nevada remain less than clear. First, it is unclear whether NRS 613.333 protects employees’ lawful, off-duty use of marijuana, both medical and recreational. That statute makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to hire an applicant or to terminate or discriminate against an employee because the employee “engages in the lawful use in this state of any product outside the premises of the employer during the employee’s nonworking hours, if that use does not adversely affect the employee’s ability to perform his or her job or the safety of other employees.” Nevada attorneys practicing in the area of employment law continue to debate whether this statute prohibits the termination of an employee for off-duty use of marijuana, largely focusing on the meaning of the “in this state” language in the statute, given that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  For Nevada employers, until this issue is definitively resolved there will be some risk associated with the termination of an employee for off-duty use of marijuana.

The second issue that remains unclear arises from an employer’s obligation to accommodate medical marijuana usage in Nevada as required by NRS 453A.800.  Significantly in July 2017, in the first case of its kind nationwide, Barbuto v. Advantage Sales, 2017 Mass. LEXIS 504 (Mass. 2017), the highest court in Massachusetts determined, though the state medical marijuana law provided criminal protections only, a cause of action was available for disability discrimination under state law for employees using marijuana lawfully.

Because of the remaining uncertainty, Nevada employers struggle with issues related to:

  1. Employees or applicants that use medical marijuana off duty and test positive for marijuana on pre- or post-employment testing;
  2. Determining when off-duty medical marijuana usage impairs an employee during work time, such that an adverse action, like termination, can lawfully be taken; and
  1. Employing workers in safety-sensitive positions that use medical marijuana.

Employers struggle with these issues because the appropriate course of action for an employee often depends upon whether the employee’s medical marijuana usage results in the employee being impaired at work.

Practically speaking, there is no universally accepted method of proving whether, or to what extent, an individual is impaired by marijuana because there is no consensus as to what THC concentration correlates to impairment.  Drug tests do not measure impairment.  Therefore, taking adverse action against an employee creates a risk of violating Nevada’s laws. Meanwhile, not taking action and allowing an employee that could be impaired to continue to work, particularly in safety-sensitive positions, creates risks of its own (for example, negligent hiring or retention claims relating to employees who regularly drive for their jobs).  Consequently, employers faced with such issues should consult with knowledgeable counsel prior to taking action

New Tax Laws – What You Need to Know

New Tax Laws – What You Need to Know

It’s been almost a year since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) brought sweeping changes to the American tax system. Sitting down to do your taxes in the next few weeks – or talking with your tax preparer – will involve tackling the most sweeping changes in the federal income tax rules in more than 30 years. Let’s look at some of the changes.

–All individual taxpayers will now use the same 1040 simple form. It replaces the old 1040, the 1040A and the 1040EZ.  You may need to file supplemental schedules with your 1040 in certain cases, such as if you itemize deductions or qualify for a variety of tax credits other than the basic child tax credit.

Should you Itemize this Year?

“You still want to run your numbers both ways,” said Jackie Perlman, tax research analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute, meaning you should try itemizing and comparing the outcome with just taking the standard deduction.

Families who own a home, in particular, will want to review whether they’d still itemize to lower their tax bill. You’d need deductions to exceed the new higher, standard deduction, which is nearly double from a year ago. And you’ll face new limits relating to the deduction you can take on property and income taxes.

Married couples filing jointly are looking at a standard deduction of $24,000 on their 2018 federal income tax returns —  $11,300 up from the old amount of $12,700 on the 2017 tax returns.

Single filers are looking at a standard deduction of $12,000 — up by $5,650 from the old amount of $6,350 on 2017 returns.

But there also is an additional standard deduction for those who are 65 or older, or blind.

If married filing jointly, and you or your spouse are 65 or older, you may increase your standard deduction by $1,300. If both of you are 65 or older, the additional standard deduction goes up to $2,600.

If you file under single or head of household and are 65 or older, you may increase your standard deduction by $1,600.

Child Tax Credit

Most parents across the country with young children or teens will be able to tap into the child tax credit on their 2018 federal income tax returns – even if they couldn’t use that credit in the past.

To claim the credit, the child must be 16 years old or younger, as of Dec. 31, and claimed as a dependent on your tax return. The child also must have a valid Social Security number.

The maximum credit has gone up to $2,000 from $1,000.

Another plus: Now, up to $1,400 per child is available as a refundable credit. Families can claim the credit if they earn the income of $2,500 or more in income. As a result, some families can get refunds even if their taxes are $0


In the past, taxpayers could take an exemption deduction for themselves, spouse and each of their dependents.  Each personal exemption reduced gross income by $4,050 on 2017 returns.   A new credit, often called the Credit for Other Dependents, offers $500 for each qualifying child or other dependent relatives, such as older relatives in your household, if they do not qualify for the child tax credit.  Now exemptions have been eliminated.

What Else Has Been Eliminated?

Business Expenses:  If you have unreimbursed business expenses from last year, you won’t be able to deduct those anymore. Depending on your job, this could be a big loss. This can include travel expenses from business travel your employer didn’t pay for, scrubs or uniforms you paid out-of-pocket; or continuing education classes you took for your profession.

Job search expenses: You can no longer deduct for expenses related to finding a new job. Before those expenses could include travel costs incurred for a job interview, fees for resume and cover letter services, or fees for job-placement services. “Even if you didn’t get the job,” said Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and tax expert at TurboTax.

Tax preparation fees: You can’t write off any costs from getting help with your taxes from 2018 through 2025 under the new tax law changes. There’s one exclusion: Self-employed workers can still deduct these services as a business expense.

Charitable contributions: Since the standard deduction claimed by individuals or couples has nearly doubled, fewer people will itemize and you must itemize in order to deduct charitable donations from your taxes.

Help During The Shutdown

As the longest shutdown in U.S. history continues, furloughed and government workers wonder can they be evicted? Can their lights be disconnected? Will their water service be shut off? Unfortunately, all these things can legally occur. But don’t fret, legislation is being introduced to protect said workers from the legal consequences of being unpaid. Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson submitted a Bill which would provide federal employees and their families with protections from foreclosures, evictions, repossessions and credit defaults during a federal government shutdown. This legislation will prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the government shutdown and unable to pay rent or repay loans. The Bill would also empower federal workers to sue creditors or landlords that violate this protection against landlords, utility companies and creditors during a government shutdown. Prayerfully the shutdown will end before voting takes place.

In the meantime, many nonprofits and businesses have stepped up to help affected workers.

** Workers can apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), which is a government assistance program. You can apply online at dwss.nv.org or call 800-992-0900.
** Federal employees can grab a free meal and nonalcoholic drink at Beer Park Las Vegas in Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South during the shutdown. The Beer Park is open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
** Romano’s Macaroni Grill is offering federal employees a free plate of Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs with spaghetti for as long as the shutdown lasts. Employees can get the dish for free by showing a valid federal ID.
** Federal workers can get a sweet treat from the Milk Bar at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South. The dessert and coffee bar is offering a free coffee or Cereal Milk soft-serve ice cream to federal employees.
** Federal employees can collect food or get meals from food banks across the valley. Pantry program and community meal locations, as well as distribution days and times, can be found on Three Square’s website. Locations distribute food at various times and are open on differen days of the week.
** Street Dogz, a nonprofit that distributes food for homeless pets, will give cat or dog food to any furloughed government employee with a federal ID. Distribution sites and times are listed on the group’s Facebook page.
** Federal employees can ride Regional Transportation Commission buses for free by showing their federal ID to the bus driver. The free rides will last as long as the government is shut down.
** Wells Fargo will automatically reverse federal employees’ monthly service and late fees on deposit accounts, waive late fees on credit accounts and will not apply late charges for mortgage and home equity customers for up to 90 days.
** NV Energy will protect furloughed workers’ accounts during the shutdown by waiving late fees and other penalties. When the shutdown is over, workers will have time to pay the outstanding balance. Workers affected by the shutdown can call NV Energy for more details at 702-790-7777.
** The city of Henderson is deferring water and sewer bill payments for furloughed federal employees who can present a furlough letter or pay stub showing they work for the government. Federal workers can submit a request online at Contact Henderson or by calling the Department of Utility Services at 702-267-5900. Henderson residents also can defer payments at the city’s recreation centers by showing their federal ID or calling 702-267-4000.
** North Las Vegas is also deferring utility payments, allowing federal workers to pay what they can during the shutdown and then pay off the balance interest-free after the government reopens. Workers can contact the North Las Vegas utility department at 702-633-1484.


The Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act or FIRST STEP Act reforms the federal prison system and seeks to reduce recidivism.  The act was signed by President Donald Trump on December 21, 2018.   The Act shall, among many provisions: allow for employees to store their firearms securely at federal prisons; restrict the use of restraints on pregnant women; expand compassionate release for terminally ill patients; place prisoners closer to family in some cases; authorize new markets for Federal Prison Industries; mandate de-escalation training for correctional officers and employees; and improve feminine hygiene in prison.

The major provisions of the First Step Act, as it stands now:

  • The Act makes retroactive the reforms enacted by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences at the federal level.
  • The Act takes several steps to ease mandatory minimum sentences under federal law. It gives more discretion to judges in handing down mandatory minimum sentences. It eases a “three strikes” rule so people with three or more convictions, including for drug offenses, do not automatically get 25 years instead of life.   It restricts the current practice of stacking gun charges against drug offenders to add possibly decades to prison sentences. All of these changes would lead to shorter prison sentences in the future.
  • The Act increases “good time credits” that inmates can earn. It allows credits for participating in more vocational and rehabilitative programs. These credits will allow inmates to be released early to halfway houses or home confinement. Not only could this mitigate prison overcrowding, but the hope is that the education programs will reduce the likelihood that an inmate will commit another crime once released and, as a result, reduce both crime and incarceration in the long term.

Not every inmate will benefit from the changes. The system will use an algorithm to initially determine who can cash in earned time credits, with inmates deemed higher risk excluded from cashing in, although not from earning the credits. The Act also excludes certain inmates from earning credits, such as undocumented immigrants and people who are convicted of high-level offenses.

Nothing in the Act is groundbreaking.  That is one reason the Act is dubbed a “first step.” Still, the Act starts to chip away at criminal justice reform at the federal level, which is a small part of the criminal justice system.  It is important to understand that almost all police work is done at the local and state level. There are about 18,000 law enforcement agencies in America, only around 50 or so are federal agencies.

By and large, criminal justice reform will fall to the local and state governments.  Many have already passed the kinds of sentencing reforms that the federal system has struggled to enact. 

This is not to downplay the Act but it’s important to put its full impact on mass incarceration in a broader context


Last month, we spoke about home foreclosure. If you are about to be in the throes of the nonjudicial foreclosure process, I informed you to don’t give up because there is still hope. Have you heard of the Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program? The Foreclosure Mediation Program or “FMP” is a process where Homeowners and Lenders meet in person with a Mediator to speak about ways to avoid foreclosure. The Mediator is a neutral person who tries to help the Homeowner and Lender come up with a fair and voluntary agreement. FMP affects homeowners in owner-occupied properties who are served a notice of default and Election to sell recorded on or after July 1, 2017. Homeowners served before July 1, 2017, can go through the process if the lender consents in writing.

If you have you received a Notice of Default within the last thirty days or you received a Complaint about Judicial Foreclosure within the last twenty days, and you are interested in participating in foreclosure mediation, visit the Petition for Foreclosure Mediation Assistance page for a step-by-step guide. Do not wait! If the process has gone too far, it may be too late to stop the foreclosure of your home.
If you petition for foreclosure mediation assistance within the appropriate time, the lender may not foreclose until mediation has been completed. Once mediation is scheduled, the actual mediation meeting is fairly fast (less than four hours), inexpensive ($500, paid equally by the parties), and less formal than other legal processes. The goal of the program is to make foreclosure the last resort for the lender.
In short, you will file a Petition for Foreclosure Mediation Assistance at the district court clerk’s office, pay a $250.00 mediator fee and a $25.00 filing fee, then mail copies of your petition to the lender, trustee, and Home Means Nevada. The Supreme Court established Home Means Nevada, Inc. as the mediation administrator for the Foreclosure Mediation Program. If you timely file the petition, no further action can be taken to sell your home until completion of the mediation. (NRS 107.086.)
After filing your petition, you will receive a notice appointing a mediator. The mediator will arrange a time and place for the mediation. The mediator will send you a scheduling notice explaining what documents you must produce and how to exchange them with your lender before the mediation.
Three parties will be present at the mediation: you, the lender, and the mediator. Both you and the lender must negotiate in good faith regarding alternatives to foreclosure. Usually, alternatives to foreclosure include (i) loan modification or repayment plan, (ii) short sale or (iii) giving the property up (a “deed-in-lieu”). You will tell them what you want and show them what you can afford. If you reach an agreement, the mediator will help you outline the terms of the agreement.
The mediator will issue a Mediator’s Statement within ten days of the conclusion of the mediation. Within ten days of that statement, either side can submit a request or an objection. The District Court judge then enters an Order that reflects the terms of the loan modification if one was reached, and the new terms under the loan modification will begin. If no loan modification or other agreement was reached, the judge will dismiss the case. The order dismissing the case will be served on Home Means Nevada, who will then issue a certificate to the trustee to proceed with the foreclosure.
But remember, if you have received a Notice of Default within the last thirty days or you received a Complaint about Judicial Foreclosure within the last twenty days, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE IN TRYING TO SAVE YOUR HOME FROM FORECLOSURE!!!


If your answer to the above question is yes, make sure you know your rights. When you take out a loan to purchase residential property in Nevada, you will likely sign a promissory note and a deed of trust. A promissory note is basically an IOU that contains the promise to repay the loan, as well as the terms for repayment. The deed of trust provides security for the loan that is evidenced by a promissory note. If you miss a payment, most loans include a grace period of ten or fifteen days after which time the loan servicer will assess a late fee. To find out the late charge amount and grace period for your loan, look at the promissory note that you signed. This information can also be found on your monthly mortgage statement.

If you miss a few mortgage payments, your mortgage servicer will probably send a letter or two reminding you to get caught up, as well as call you to try to collect the payments. Don’t ignore the phone calls and letters. This is a good opportunity to discuss foreclosure avoidance options and attempt to work out an agreement, like a loan modification, forbearance or payment plan. Under federal laws that went into effect January 10, 2014, the servicer normally must wait until you are 120 days delinquent on payments before making the first official notice or filing for any nonjudicial or judicial foreclosure.

Nevada law requires the servicer or owner of the loan to send the borrower a notice that contains information about the account, including the total amount needed to cure the default and includes information about foreclosure prevention alternatives, among other things. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 107.500. In Nevada, most residential foreclosures are nonjudicial. This means the lender can foreclose without going to court as long as the deed of trust contains a power of sale clause.

The Nevada nonjudicial foreclosure process formally begins when the trustee, a third-party, records a Notice of Default and Election to Sell (NOD) in the office of the recorder in the county where the property is located, providing three months to cure the default. A copy of the NOD must be sent to each person who has a recorded request for a copy and each person with an interest or claimed an interest in the property by registered or certified mail within ten days after the NOD is recorded. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 107.090. If a residential foreclosure, a copy of the NOD must be posted on the property, Nev. Rev. Stat. § 107.087, and the trustee or beneficiary (lender) must record a notarized affidavit. See Nev. Rev. Stat. § 107.0805 for what must be included in the affidavit.

If you are about to be in the throes of the nonjudicial foreclosure process, don’t give up…there is still hope. Have you heard of the Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program? Stay tuned over the next month for more information!