Nevada judges make a lot of decisions–sometimes orally in court and sometimes in writing. When a party tries to enforce an order, an important question arises: when does a court’s order become effective and, thus, enforceable?
Types of Court Orders
Nevada courts issue many types of orders. For example, during a hearing a judge might issue an oral order, and he or she will typically ask one of the parties to draft a written order for the judge to sign. After the party drafts the order and the judge signs it, the order is then a signed, written order.
Judges also issue what is called a “minute order,” which means the judge issues it without a hearing and sends it to the parties involved in the case. Minute orders have a date on them, but the judge doesn’t actually sign the order. Sometimes minute orders are related to the actual controversy in the case, or the procedures involved in adjudicating the controversy, and sometimes minute orders are more about the court’s administrative duties which don’t necessarily have much to do with the controversy itself.
Which Orders Are Effective?
The Nevada Supreme Court has provided clear guidance on when a court’s order becomes effective. In a 2004 case, the Supreme Court ruled that orders “must be written, signed, and filed before they become effective,” unless they are only administrative in nature. In other words
a court’s oral pronouncement from the bench, the clerk’s minute order, and even an unfiled written order are ineffective for any purpose (italics in original).
The Court said this rule is important because until a court signs a written order and it is filed, “[t]he court remains free to reconsider the decision and issue a different written judgment.” In addition, “requiring courts to enter written orders is essential because oral orders are almost always unclear and subject to varying interpretations.”
In support of its opinion, the Court also noted that according to NRCP 58 a judgment is not effective for any purpose until it is signed by the judge or clerk and filed.
Finally, the Court specified which types of orders are “administrative in nature” and, thus, effective as oral orders:
Oral orders dealing with summary contempt, case management issues, scheduling, administrative matters or emergencies that do not allow a party to gain a procedural or tactical advantage are valid and enforceable.
In contrast, “[d]ispositional court orders that are not administrative in nature, but deal with the procedural posture or merits of the underlying controversy, must be written, signed, and filed before they become effective.”
The law in Nevada is clear: most orders must be written, signed, and filed to be effective. Attorneys and parties should take this fact into account when deciding whether to follow, enforce, or take other action on an order.