The Churchill County Commissioners faced a tough decision at their Thursday meeting on whether or not they should terminate Paul Drakulich’s contract for legal services in light of a Nevada Supreme Court order.
Drakulich, one of three public defenders for Churchill County, was recently suspended from practicing before the Supreme Court because of improper preparation of documents and continued lateness in filing documents.
The Supreme Court added the suspension will remain in effect for a minimum of one year after which Drakulich may petition to again practice before the court. Because regulations requires trial counsel to represent an appellant in the Supreme Court on appeal, the suspension precludes Drakulich from accepting appointment in any case which may be subject to the fast track provisions of a regulation on appeal.
Drakulich told commissioners at this point he could no longer fulfill his contract with the county.
“I have practiced here for 28 years as a prosecutor and a public defender,” Drakulich said. “There are a lot of politics behind this order from the Supreme Court. It’s like the IRS … you know you just don’t fight them.”
Drakulich suggested to the commissioners that instead of permanently terminating his contract that they modify the terms.
“I suggest that Jacob Sommer and David Neidert be the public defenders until I can get reinstated with the Supreme Court,” Drakulich said. “They will handle the things that need to go before the court, and I can work with them and do just as much as I’m doing now, I just can’t make appearances on cases that go before the Supreme Court.”
Drakulich said he didn’t keep up with the rules of the Supreme Court and that is why he has been suspended.
“We’ll work things out,” Drakulich said. “I’ll get myself back in good standings with the Supreme Court, I have no doubt that will happen … it’s not going to happen tomorrow … so that’s why I ask we handle things this way.”
Neidert said he agrees with Drakulichs’ proposal about splitting the caseload between himself and Sommer. He said as long as a sentencing attorney is used and Drakulich doesn’t argue in front of the Supreme Court, there will be no violation to the court order.
County Manager Eleanor Lockwood said she has had several conversations with Sommer regarding the matter and the Supreme Court requiring filings on the status of the public defenders. Lockwood said Sommer is appreciative of the work Drakulich has done but is concerned with the workload that has already increased by 50 percent and how the increase will affect the quality of the service that is provided to clients.
Steve Evenson, a private-practice lawyer, said he did not agree with Drakulich’s contract being terminated fully. Evenson offered Drakulich and the commissioners his services to help with the caseload to allow Drakulich to keep his contract.
Commissioner Bus Scharmann said this situation is not easy.
“It’s not a question about your capability, certainly not on your honesty, or your integrity,” Scharmaan said. “I looked at what the Supreme Court said and like you (Drakulich) said you don’t fight the Supreme Court and that concerns me. When they talked about suspending your practice before the Supreme Court and it’s my understanding that we have very few cases that are misdemeanors in our county … I do worry about the workload on the other attorneys.”
Drakulich said he is now filing a petition with the Supreme Court.
Commissioner Pete Olsen said these are extraordinary circumstances that the commissioners are going through.
The commissioners agreed to a 90-day termination of contract between Churchill County and Drakulich that will become effective July 1, 2014. Staff members are directed to monitor the workload of Neidert and Sommer and arrange services from Evenson on Drakulich’s behalf.
Other items discussed and/or approved by the commissioners include the following:
Discussed presentation about noxious weed program presented by the Nevada Department of Agriculture.
Approved Bill 2014-A, Ordinance 71, an ordinance making corrections, deletions, additions, and minor revisions to Title 13 Water and Sewer, Sections 13.02.010 through 3.04.1060 and Sections 13.05.110 through 13.05.1110.
Approved contract between Public Agencies State of Nevada, Division of Welfare and Supportive Services and the 10th Judicial District Court.
Approved grants FTA 5311 for operations and FTA 5339 for a vehicle and agreement for the purchase of a new bus for CART.
Approved Bill 2014-B, Ordinance 7, and ordinance amending various provisions of Title 3 of the Churchill County code.
Approved transfer of funds to the city of Fallon for first and final payment for the pedestrian safety fencing on Convention Center Drive.
Approved agreement with Nevada Iron concerning Pole Line Road.
Approved Daniel J. and L. Diane Prockish application for sending site and transfer of development rights for 600 N. Harmon Road, Assessor’s Parcel Number 007-572-06.
Approved Leila Johnson for extension of time for recordation of parcel maps # 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, Lone Tree Road, TCID # 04-205, 05-029, 05-030, 07-010, 07-011, APN: 006-541-48, until April 2, 2017.
Approved L.C. Schank and Sons, LLC to temporarily transfer water from the agricultural property owned by Churchill County and leased by L.C. Schank and Sons, LLC, located at 1245 Austin