Commission on Indigent Defense Overview

NOTE: The Indigent Defense Commission was closed on March 3, 2021 via ADKT 0411 Order.

In 2007, the Nevada Supreme Court convened the Indigent Defense Commission (IDC) under the Chairmanship of Justice Michael Cherry 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.

On January 4, 2008, the Court issued its first ADKT 411 Order which contained performance standards, a requirement to remove judges from the appointment of counsel process, and also recommended that all rural counties use the State Public Defender’s Office. Additionally, the Order required all jurisdictions to file a plan for the appointment of counsel and 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 established a definition of ‘indigent’ to be used when appointing counsel.

In response to this initial Order, several groups including the district attorneys, rural judges, and counties, filed objections with the Court; a hearing was held in March 2008 and resulted 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, together with 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.

In 2014, the Indigent Defense Commission’s Rural Subcommittee completed its tasks of gathering and analyzing data pertaining to the number and scope of public defender appointments across the State. Early in the winter of 2014, the Rural Subcommittee used this data to present its “Rural Subcommittee Report on the Status of Indigent Defense in the 15 Rural Counties and Recommendations to Improve Service to Indigent Defendants” to the Nevada Supreme Court.

On July 23, 2015, history was made when the Nevada Supreme Court signed ADKT 0411 and adopted and/or endorsed 4 of the Rural Subcommittee’s recommendations. This banned the use of strictly flat fee contracts in the delivery of indigent defense services, placed rural death penalty cases and appeals in the hands of the State Public Defender’s Office, and encouraged the implementation of an Indigent Defense Board.

The Indigent Defense Commission played an integral role in the establishment of the Department of Indigent Defense Services and the Board of Indigent Defense Services in 2019.  On March 3, 2021, the Nevada Supreme Court, finding the IDC’s work successfully completed and its role assumed by the Department of Indigent Defense Services, ordered the Indigent Defense Commission closed and publicly thanked the Commission for its hard work and dedication in reforming the public defense system in Nevada.