Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 | 6:13 p.m.
CARSON CITY — In a 4-3 decision, the Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that Family Court judges are limited to deciding issues specifically outlined in the law such as divorce, child custody, child support, guardianship and other family matters.
The court said Family Court Judge N. Anthony Del Vecchio overstepped his authority when he issued a default judgment in the case of an unmarried couple arguing about property ownership.
Justice Michael Douglas, who wrote the majority opinion, said the Legislature specifically limited the issues that could be considered by a Family Court judge.
In this case, Dlynn Landreth and Amit Malik had lived together but were never married and did not have children. They split and then got into a battle over a home in Las Vegas and other property.
Del Vecchio issued a default judgment in favor of Malik. But the Supreme Court vacated the decision.
Chief Justice James Hardesty wrote the dissenting opinion saying Del Vecchio is a District Court judge and had the power and authority to dispose of the case, even though it involved a subject outside the scope of the law.
Hardesty said “judges sitting in Family Court exercise the same constitutional power and authority as other District Court judges, including the power to adjudicate cases outside the Family Court’s subject matter jurisdiction.”
Hardesty said the case should go back to Del Vecchio to decide if Landreth made the proper motions to stop the default judgment.
Joining Douglas in the majority were Justices Ron Parraguirre, Michael Cherry and Kristina Pickering. In the dissent were Hardesty, Nancy Saitta and Mark Gibbons.