Nevada High Court Orders Indigent Defense Reforms

In a 4-3 ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court set new standards to ensure that indigents get adequate legal counsel when charged with crimes - but stopped short of imposing caseload limits that would require more public defenders in Las Vegas and Reno.

While the court was divided on caseload limits, Chief Justice Bill Maupin said studies on such limits will be completed by mid-July and a hearing to consider the limits is scheduled for Sept. 5.

Maupin wrote the dissent to the majority order, saying he agreed with everything in the ruling except for the majority decision delaying caseload limits for public defenders. He said the limits should be imposed by July 1. Justices Michael Cherry and Nancy Saitta agreed.

The majority order, written by Justice Jim Hardesty, notes that the average caseload for a public defender is 364 felony and gross
misdemeanor cases in the Las Vegas area and 327 cases in the Reno
area. The recommended standard is 150 cases.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-04-08 1613EST