Indigent Defense Reforms in Nevada Discussed

The state Supreme Court has been told that public defenders throughout Nevada face overwhelming workloads and in some cases may have to withdraw on ethical grounds rather than represent an indigent without enough preparation.

Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn, whose deputies each handle about 400 felony cases a year, said he'd hold off on a decision to withdraw from cases until he sees how the county responds to the Supreme Court's possible adoption of caseload and performance standards.

Washoe County Public Defender Jeremy Bosler told the Supreme Court that his attorneys have an average of only about two hours to spend on each case they get.

The court also heard testimony about indigent defense crises in rural counties. A report by the Indigent Defense Commission, formed by the high court earlier this year, includes a recommendation for more funding and independence for the state public defender's office to improve indigent defense in those areas.

Chief Justice Bill Maupin called the discussions "the most important examination of the criminal justice system that has occurred in recent years" in the state. The high court is expected to spend several weeks deciding how to deal with the commission's report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-12-21-07 1335EST