Commission on Indigent Defense
The Nevada Supreme Court convened the Indigent Defense Commission (IDC) under the Chairmanship of Justice Michael Cherry in 2007 to examine and make recommendations regarding the delivery of indigent defense services in Nevada.
The Commission filed its initial report with the Court in November of 2007.
The Court issued its first ADKT 411 Order on January 4, 2008. This Order contained performance standards, a requirement to remove judges from the appointment of counsel process, and recommended that all rural counties use the State Public Defender’s Office. The Order also required all jurisdictions to file a plan for the appointment of counsel with the Court by May 2008. The Order made real the voluntary request from Clark and Washoe Counties to conduct weighted caseload studies, in order to determine appropriate public defender caseloads. The Order also contains a definition of ‘indigent’ to be used when appointing counsel.
After objections were filed with the Court, by several groups including the district attorneys, rural judges, and the counties, a hearing was held in March 2008; resulting in an Order on March 21, 2008. This Order required that new members be added to the IDC, the performance standards be reconsidered, and the Rural Subcommittee be reconstituted to re-examine the issues in Rural Nevada.
During this interim period, the District Attorneys and Defense Bar worked with the IDC to revise the performance standards, and the Rural Subcommittee reconvened and developed new, refined recommendations. Clark and Washoe Counties, and the cities in urban jurisdictions, formulated and began to implement plans to remove judges from the process of appointment for conflict counsel, and reformed their contract attorney systems.
The Court issued another order on October 16, 2008. This Order sets the final performance standards to be implemented in April 2009, and grants Clark and Washoe Counties request they be given until May 2009 to complete their weighted caseload studies.
In January 2009, ADKT 411 hearing the Rural Subcommittee presented its final report, and later that year the weighted caseload study on the Clark and Washoe County Public Defenders’ Offices was given to the Court.
There were disputes about that study and the Court asked the IDC to develop data regarding indigent defense in Nevada. The Commission has developed data definitions and reporting forms and is currently assessing the ability of the defenders, counties, and courts to collect that data. The Commission is also looking at the way flat fee contracts are used to provide for indigent defense services in Nevada.