December 13, 2018
Carson City, NV – On January 5, 2015, Adam Paul Laxalt was sworn in as Nevada’s 33rd attorney general, at the time making him the youngest attorney general in the nation. On his first day of office, AG Laxalt pledged to provide strong leadership to Nevadans by working hand-in-hand with local law enforcement and prosecutors to fight crime, protect the rights of Nevadans and keep our communities safe. Four years later, through the hard work of the extraordinary public servants of the Office of the Nevada Attorney General (OAG), those commitments have been fulfilled through a number of statewide programs and initiatives highlighted below.
Among other new or expanded services, the office:
- initiated a working group to reduce Nevada’s decades-in-the-making sexual assault kit backlog of nearly 8,000 untested kits and has led the charge to send nearly 100 percent of those kits to labs for testing;
- created the first-of-its-kind Office of Military Legal Assistance that has served nearly 4,000 Nevada service members and veterans and has been duplicated in numerous other states;
- established the State’s “Prescription for Addiction” opioid program aimed at curbing the abuse and misuse of opioids in Nevada;
- hosted eight law enforcement summits throughout the State, bringing law enforcement together to discuss and address emerging criminal trends; and
- used non-taxpayer dollars to start a Financial Fraud and Guardianship Abuse Unit.
“The time I have spent working alongside the public servants in this office is among the most gratifying experiences of my professional and personal life,” said Attorney General Adam Laxalt. “I am encouraged by the way we have moved forward together on behalf of all Nevadans, and how blessed I have been to serve as the top law enforcement officer of the Battle Born State.”
AG Laxalt spent the last weeks of his term personally thanking law enforcement officials, victim service providers, board members and other stakeholders who have been instrumental in accomplishing the office’s priorities summarized below.
Working with Local Law Enforcement to Address Emerging Criminal Trends:
A month into his term in office, AG Laxalt hosted Nevada’s first Law Enforcement Summit, bringing together Nevada’s sheriffs, chiefs and district attorneys from respective counties statewide. Since then, the summits were expanded to include city attorneys, program managers, federal agencies and other law enforcement officials from the State’s counties and tribes. To date, eight Law Enforcement Summits have been held with more than 800 individuals in attendance, including a special summit on school safety and a summit geared towards addressing Nevada’s opioid crisis. Presentations and discussions included contemporary topics challenging law enforcement such as active shooter trainings, officer safety in domestic violence situations, investigation and certification of drug-related deaths, Nevada’s sexual assault kit initiative, cybersecurity, elder abuse, body cameras and human trafficking, among others.
Reduction of the Decades-in-the-Making Sexual Assault Kit Backlog:
During AG Laxalt’s term, the OAG has been steadfast in its efforts to eliminate Nevada’s decades-in-the-making sexual assault kit backlog. AG Laxalt created and chaired Nevada’s statewide Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Working Group collectively working to create policies and procedures to address the State’s backlog of nearly 8,000 untested sexual assault kits. As a part of this effort, the OAG applied for and secured over $10 million in grant and non-taxpayer settlement monies to fund, among other things, the inventory and testing of backlogged sexual assault kits, and to investigate the results of Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hits from those tested kits. To date, nearly 100% of all previously backlogged sexual assault kits were sent to labs for testing, and 27 related arrests have been conducted statewide. In order to create a statewide resource for survivors of sexual crimes, the OAG created and launched a statewide sexual assault website providing information to survivors regarding the backlog and Nevada’s response to the backlog, as well as information and resources needed for survivors of sexual assault to receive assistance. To view the website, visit http://endnevadasbacklog.ag.nv.gov.
Additionally, the OAG applied for and received a competitive grant to research and implement a sexual assault kit tracking and record-keeping system for the two jurisdictions of forensic laboratories, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Division and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Forensic Laboratory. The OAG undertook extensive work to research the feasibility of this project, develop a tracking subcommittee to determine the necessary requirements of the tracking system, and finally, in conjunction with State Purchasing, create a vendor selection team to review and score the applications received through the Request for Proposal process.
Office of Military Legal Assistance:
In 2015, AG Laxalt created the Office of Military Legal Assistance (OMLA). The OMLA is the nation’s first attorney general-led, public-private partnership giving military communities access to pro-bono civil legal representation on a variety of important civil issues. The OMLA facilitates a range of free civil legal services for qualified Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard members and their families in Nevada. For veterans living in Nevada who have an honorable or general discharge from service, the program covers the productions of wills and powers of attorney. In four short years the program, through its pro bono legal-aid partnerships, has provided pro bono legal service to nearly 4,000 servicemembers and veterans, and has earned the Department of Defense’s recognition as a “Best Practice Program.” For more information on this program, please visit its website at http://nvagomla.nv.gov/.
The “Prescription for Addiction” Opioid Prevention Program:
In October of 2017, Nevada’s Interim Finance Committee unanimously approved AG Laxalt’s “Prescription for Addiction” opioid initiative to combat the use, abuse and misuse of prescription drugs in Nevada. The five points address priority areas which include the purchase of drug incinerators to safely dispose of drugs throughout the State, the distribution of anti-overdose drug Naloxone to first responders, funding allocated toward prevention and education efforts, and the creation of an investigative position to assist with federal efforts to curb opioid abuse. The program has already begun to make a difference in our communities, and has been widely recognized as a huge success. In addition to this program, the office continued its participation in a nationwide opioid investigation, and filed a lawsuit earlier this year against a major drug manufacturer for engaging in deceptive practices that fueled Nevada’s opioid epidemic and led to the opioid overdose deaths of Nevadans.
Supporting Survivors of Human Trafficking:
Since taking office, AG Laxalt focused on combating human trafficking in Nevada. Of particular concern to him was providing needed services to survivors of this horrific crime. Under AG Laxalt’s leadership, the OAG co-hosted four benefit dinners, raising a total of over $225,000 for Nevada’s Victims of Human Trafficking Fund. The account was created in 2013 with the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 311 authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to create an account which allocates money to nonprofit corporations and agencies benefiting victims of human trafficking. The account is entirely donation-based, and helps Nevada’s victims in emergency situations such as the need for temporary housing or transportation costs. In addition to these efforts, AG Laxalt is proud to have obtained the first human trafficking conviction during his term in office, involving a man who forced a victim to engage in prostitution on the Las Vegas Strip.
Combatting Elder Exploitation and Guardianship Abuse:
Protecting Nevada’s most vulnerable populations was an important mission of AG Laxalt’s administration. Despite the fact that Nevada law gives local law enforcement agencies primary jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute elder abuse and exploitation crimes, AG Laxalt prioritized elder exploitation during his term in office, and expanded the roles of existing investigators and prosecutors to address this growing problem. In order to fulfill this public safety mission, the Attorney General’s Office identified non-taxpayer settlement monies to assist in the investigation and prosecution of financial fraud matters in the State. On June 30, 2016, the Interim Finance Committee unanimously approved the OAG’s proposal to create a new Financial Fraud Unit in the office, consisting of additional investigators and prosecutors. The Unit is a success and has made the OAG more flexible, effective, and efficient in executing its law enforcement mission. One notable success is the investigation and prosecution of the most significant guardianship exploitation case in Nevada’s history concerning April Parks, the owner of A Private Professional Guardian, LLC, and her co-defendants. After collectively being indicted on 270 felony counts for elder exploitation, Parks and her co-defendants pleaded guilty on November 5, 2018. In addition to this case, AG Laxalt’s office has obtained seven other elder exploitation convictions throughout the State, and continues to investigate numerous others.
Providing Nevadans with Enhancements to the Leading Victim Notification Network:
In July, 2017 Nevada was the first state in the country to launch the most enhanced version of Victim Information and Notification Everyday, or VINE. This version includes a new mobile application of VINE and a service provider directory to allow users seeking assistance to directly connect with both local and national service providers. After the migration to the newly enhanced VINE, the OAG’s ombudsman continued to promote VINE to the public by attending community events and encouraging the public to utilize this free system focused on enhancing victim safety. Under the leadership of AG Laxalt, other states have been encouraged to join this newly enhanced version of VINE in order to better assist and support our victims of crime. The following figures include Nevada VINE statistics from January 2018 to June 2018:
- 53,233 notifications were provided to Nevada’s VINE users through outbound calls, emails, text messages, letters and TTY (29% increase from July 2017–December 2017).
- 322,683 offender and case searches were conducted using the VINE website, mobile application and phone service (61% increase from July 2017–December 2017).
Combatting Federal Overreach:
Consistent with AG Laxalt’s commitment to defending our nation’s constitutional principles and protecting the important role of the States in our federalist system of government, he created Nevada’s first ever Federalism Unit within the Office of the Attorney General. One of the Unit’s primary focuses was to professionalize and improve appellate advocacy. Protecting the interests of Nevadans, the Federalism Unit also challenged multiple occasions of unlawful federal overreach, including Yucca Mountain litigation, actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency, orders interfering with Nevada’s public roads and criminal justice system, and restrictions infringing upon Second Amendment rights. Some of the unit’s largest federal challenges include the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States Rule, the Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule, and the Bureau of Land Management’s Sage Grouse Plan. The unit regularly fights to ensure that Nevada’s criminal convictions are upheld against federal court challenges.
Office Reorganization and Budget Returns:
Since January 2015, under the direction of AG Laxalt, the OAG returned nearly $32 million to the State’s general fund, an amount equal to 94 percent of two full years of general fund salaries and operating expenses appropriated to the OAG by the Legislature. The nearly $32 million reversion is based on a return of $26.1 million in settlements and $5.44 million in salary and operating efficiencies. AG Laxalt accomplished these budgetary efficiencies after a 2015 legislatively approved office reorganization. By this internal reform, the OAG saved taxpayer dollars while making the office faster and more responsive. Moreover, the Office of the Attorney General reduced Nevada’s contingent litigation liabilities by more than two-thirds, from $1.2 billion to below $500 million.
During his term as attorney general, AG Laxalt’s office has written and passed a number of public safety and victim-centered bills which continue to make a lasting difference in the lives of Nevadans, including legislation governing the unlawful dissemination of intimate images of another person, the timely notification of family members in the event of a death of a loved one, the reporting of information to help monitor prescriptions for controlled substances, government transparency, search warrants and extraditions, and insurance fraud and Medicaid fraud, among others.
For the upcoming 2019 Legislative Session, the OAG submitted a proposed bill package of 20 bills which includes legislation aimed at improving the safety of our schools, preventing drug overdoses in Nevada, protecting our communities from sex offenders, strengthening efforts against human trafficking, and intensifying statewide efforts to curb domestic violence by increasing penalties against offenders, among others.