Date of this Version
In 1993, the Spangenberg Group, a national research consulting firm from west Newton MA, conducted an extensive statewide study of indigent defense systems in Nebraska at the request of Nebraska’s Administrative Office of the Courts. Their report, The Indigent Defense System in Nebraska (December, 1993) includes numerous findings regarding Nebraska’s various systems of indigent defense (elected public defenders, contract public defenders and assigned counsel), indigent defense caseloads, funding issues, a review of Nebraska’s standards and guidelines for indigent defense, how counties handle capital cases, and more. The report also outlined numerous recommendations and steps that Nebraska should take to improve indigent defense.
Renewed interest in Nebraska’s indigent defense system was raised in 2003. As part of their two-year investigation of racial and ethnic bias in Nebraska’s justice system, the Minority and Justice Task Force traveled to communities across Nebraska, soliciting testimony from the public on perceptions and experiences of racial and ethnic bias in the courts. One of the main concerns voiced at these public hearings was the quality of indigent defense services across the state of Nebraska. Because a higher percentage of minorities than whites are poor and thus unable to afford a private attorney, minorities are more likely than whites to need the services of a public defender or assigned counsel. The quality of the legal services provided by public defenders and assigned counsel, thereby affects how minorities, new immigrants and refugees perceive and are treated in the criminal justice system.