Nevada Supreme Court Justice Michael Cherry has been asked by the American Bar Association to speak at the ABA Annual Summit on Indigent Defense Improvement on Feb. 13 about Nevada’s recent achievements in the way legal services are provided to defendants who cannot hire their own lawyers.

Justice Cherry is chair of the Nevada Supreme Court’s Indigent Defense Commission, which has been examining how the courts treat criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire their own attorneys. As a result of the Commission’s work, new performance standards for attorneys have been enacted by the Supreme Court.

"I look forward to the Summit and the opportunity to tell the nation of Nevada’s remarkable progress toward providing quality legal representation for indigent defendants," said Justice Cherry. "It is gratifying that the ABA recognizes our accomplishments."

“Nevada has much to be proud of, but there remains much to be done, particularly in our sparsely populated rural counties that are always challenged by a lack of funding and limited access to defense attorneys,” Justice Cherry said.

The Summit is described as "a national gathering of bar leaders, defense service providers, legislators, and others interested in reforming indigent defense systems." The Summit, which is expected to draw over 100 people from across the country, is being held in conjunction with the ABA Midyear meeting in Boston.

Justice Cherry has been asked to participate on a panel that will focus on how the entire justice system can work together to improve the quality and efficiency of indigent defense delivery systems.

In inviting Justice Cherry, ABA Chief Counsel Georgia Vagenas stated, "In light of your remarkable leadership as Chairman of the Indigent Defense Commission and the report and recommendations that came out of the Commission, your participation will be incredibly valuable to other states and jurisdictions contemplating reform."

Along with providing performance standards for defense attorneys, rule changes mandated by the Supreme Court have altered how contract attorneys – those private attorneys appointed with public defenders have conflicts of interest – are chosen in urban counties. Judges in those counties no longer have a role in naming attorneys to panels of eligible lawyers.

A recent recommendation of Commission’s Rural Issues Subcommittee is that the state–not the counties–assume responsibility for funding all indigent defense services. Currently, each of Nevada’s 17 counties must provide lawyers for indigent defendants.