By Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Lyon County officials are joining those from other rural areas in asking the Nevada Supreme Court to hold off implementing new and costly rules for indigent defendants.
The commission held a special meeting via telephone conference on Friday to adopt a resolution requesting the court to rescind or postpone implementation of the court's Jan. 4 order requiring use of the state public defender for indigent defendants, among other rules.
Lyon County Assistant District Attorney Mark Krueger said the requirement could pose a financial hardship for struggling rural counties.
"A lot of rural counties don't use public defenders," he said. "They use private counsel that acts as a public defender. It could cost more money to have these state public defenders."
Officials from Pershing County, Humboldt County, Washoe County and the Sixth Judicial District Court have petitioned the state Supreme Court for exemption from the order.
A public meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday in its courtroom in Carson City, with a video-conference to the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. Monday is the deadline to provide written public comment to the meeting.
On Jan. 4, the court ordered that recommendations by it's Indigent Defense Commission, a blue-ribbon panel that studied ways to improve services to indigent defendants, be implemented.
The commission recommended that indigent defendants in all counties - other than Clark, Washoe, and Elko - be represented by the state Public Defender's Office.
County governments fund 80 percent of the cost for public defender services.
The commission also set the standards that determine if a defendant is entitled to an appointed attorney, ordered statistics on services provided to the indigent be reported, ordered a permanent commission to oversee indigent defense and stated that judges should not be involved in appointing defense council.
The order also adopts performance standards for public defenders to ensure defendants receive adequate representation from public defenders. This would lead to more public defenders in Clark and Washoe counties.
The average caseload for a public defender in Clark County was 364 felony and gross misdemeanor cases and in Washoe County it was 327 cases.
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association has set the recommended caseload standard at 150 cases.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.
If You Go
WHAT: Nevada Supreme Court Public Administrative meeting on indigent defendant rules
WHEN: 3 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Supreme Court Courtroom, 201 South Carson Street, Suite 250
Carson City, NV 89701-4702