Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center.


Executive Summary

The Lancaster County Public Defender's Office was short approximately 3.48 attorneys in 2007.

• The greatest deficit is in the felony division (1.93 PTE), followed by the misdemeanor division (.90). The juvenile division is short approximately one half an attorney (.53 PTE), and the civil division is short .12 PTE.

This deficit can be addressed by:
• Adequately staffing the office;
• Giving the office less work by:
• Establishing Caseload Standards. Cases surpassing the recommended caseload standards should be appointed to privately assigned counsel.

• Reassessing crimes which receive jail time (rethinking the crimes for which the Lancaster County Public Defender office could be appointed) and expanding juvenile diversion opportunities.

Based on attorney availability and case weights that have been tested for statistical reliability over time for the current level of staffing (10 felony attorneys, 3 county misdemeanor attorneys, 1 city misdemeanor attorney, 3 juvenile attorneys, and 1 civil attorney) the Lancaster County Public Defender Office should adopt the following Annual Caseload Standards: 1,230 felony cases (approximately 1,007 core felonies and 223 ancillary felonies); 1,562 county filed misdemeanor cases; 1,349 city filed misdemeanor cases; 1,128 juvenile cases; and 859 civil cases.

Public defenders indicate that they do not have sufficient and reasonable time to devote to performing many of the essential functions of effective representation. Their qualitative descriptions of time constraints indicate a negative impact on the quality of services they can provide, their professional development, and their quality of life.

Comparisons of paralegal and support staff indicate differences between prosecutors and defense attorney resources. In accordance with the Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, there should be "parity between defense counsel and the prosecution with respect to resources."

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