The Nevada Supreme Court has denied a request by Clark and Washoe counties to delay implementing performance standards for public defenders.
The guidelines, designed to help indigent defendants get adequate legal counsel in criminal and juvenile delinquency cases, are slated to go into effect Wednesday, as mandated by the Supreme Court in October.
Clark and Washoe counties asked for a three-month delay so that their public defender offices could train attorneys on how to handle the new standards.
But in an order last week, the Supreme Court stood firm by the deadline.
The performance guidelines include recommendations that defense counsel appropriately investigate cases and keep close contact with clients throughout cases.
"The standards are the basic ingredients of an attorney-client relationship," said Federal Public Defender Franny Forsman, a member of a Supreme Court commission that has spent nearly two years studying indigent defense in Nevada.
In a related matter, the state’s urban counties have asked the Supreme Court to extend a deadline for the completion of caseload studies from May 15 to Aug. 15.
Clark and Washoe counties commissioned the studies to determine whether public defenders are overworked to the point where caseload caps should be imposed.
The state high court has scheduled a public hearing next week to discuss whether the May deadline should stick.
David Carroll, director of research for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, said the performance standards help frame the discussion about possible caseload caps.
"The standards are things attorneys should have time to consider in every case," he said. "I would argue that in Nevada, with caseloads being what they are, that attorneys don’t always have time to think about these things."
Contact Alan Maimon at amaimon@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0404.Complete order by the Supreme Court from October (pdf)