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Indigent Defense Services in the State of Nevada: Findings & Recommendations

NCJ Number
David J. Carroll; Robert L. Spangenberg; Rangita de Silva-de Alwis; Jaime Bailey
Date Published
113 pages
Based on a statewide study of Nevada's indigent defense system, this study identifies and discusses the serious problems with current indigent defense services in Nevada, and recommendations for reform are offered.
The main finding of the study is that "Indigent citizens throughout the State of Nevada are not afforded equal justice before the courts." This is due to a number of problems identified in the study. First, the State public defender system is in crisis; second, the independence of the defense function is jeopardized throughout the State; third, the lack of State oversight and binding indigent defense standards raise quality concerns about conflicts of interest, contracting for services, attorney eligibility, training, and workload in counties across the State; fourth, the State lacks comprehensive, reliable indigent defense data; fifth, the indigent defense community does not have a unified voice for expressing justice concerns; and sixth, anecdotal information suggests that racial bias exists in Nevada's criminal justice system. Four recommendations are offered in order to address the aforementioned problems. First, Nevada must establish a leadership commitment and structure at the State level, in order to relieve counties of the entire burden for providing indigent defense services. Second, the State should establish, either by law or court rule, an indigent defense commission that will oversee defense services throughout the State and promulgate effective minimum standards. Third, make better use of law school resources. Fourth, formalize a plan to for regular performance evaluations of indigent defense providers. One of the chapters of this report includes detailed discussions of indigent defense services in Carson City, Clark, Nye, Washoe, and White Pine counties. The main body of the report is a national perspective on indigent defense services. Three appendixes present detailed tables of the findings on indigent defense services for Nevada and information on other States' indigent defense services