Supreme Court upholds contempt fees against state in incompetency cases

Judge Tod Young

Judge Tod Young

On Tuesday, a Carson City man accused of stabbing someone was found incompetent to aid in his own defense.

Efrain Gonzalez Magana, 29, has been in custody since the Nov. 14, 2022, incident.

Gonzales Magana is facing charges of attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm. 

District Judge Tom Gregory found Tuesday that Magana was a danger to himself and others and ordered him committed.

The proceedings against Gonzales Magana were suspended pending a determination on whether he can be brought back to competency.

That likely means he will be transferred to Lakes Crossing in Sparks which is operated by the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

Gonzalez Magana is not the only Douglas County inmate who will be awaiting transport to Lakes Crossing.

April Howe, 37, was ordered to Lakes Crossing in order to try and restore her competency on Aug. 29.

District Judge Tod Young gave a two-week deadline for her to be accepted at the facility or the director could be ordered to court to explain why that didn’t happen.

“This lady has a medical condition, and she is entitled to get some help,” Young said.

Just two days later, on Aug. 31, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld $500 contempt fines against the division for each day the state failed to take in 11 Clark County defendants.

Signed by the entire court, the justices determined that the district court has the authority to hold a party in civil contempt for “failure to fulfill a statutory and constitutional obligation to accept incompetent criminal defendants for restorative treatment.”

According to the opinion, defendants filed motions to either dismiss their cases or hold the division in contempt.

“The district court found the department has a long history of allowing inmates to languish for long periods in jail, only to move them within days of contempt findings,” according to the opinion. “Incapacitated criminal defendants suffer from various harms when they languish in facilities that are not equipped to treat them while awaiting transport.”

In January 2022, Young ordered the director of Lakes Crossing to court to justify delays in getting two men into treatment.

The Clark County District Court issued three orders in October 2022, prompting a request to stay the fines.

“The urgent need to address the mental health needs of the real parties is not lost on the department, which is demonstrated by the departments ongoing effort to convert an existing jail facility in Las Vegas into a forensic psychiatric.”

The Attorney General’s Office argued that the fines will be a barrier to the state hiring additional staff required to address the backlog.


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