All data is current as of 2013, unless otherwise noted.
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How the right to counsel is administered and structured
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: executive
In 1995, the legislature established the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy (NCPA) in the executive branch. The nine members are appointed by the Governor from a list of attorneys submitted by the executive council of the Nebraska State Bar Association after consultation with the board of directors of the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association.
NCPA serves as a resource and training center for the county-based right to counsel systems. The commission has attempted to craft standards and guidelines for trial-level representation, including workload standards, but the commission lacks authority to enforce those standards and to otherwise examine the provision of right to counsel services at the county level. It is thus categorized as a commission with limited authority.
How the right to counsel is funded
Percentage of state funding: 5%
Percentage of local funding: 95%
Percentage of alternative funding: o%
The methods used to provide public counsel
Each county in Nebraska determines, without state input and with only minimal restrictions, the method it uses to provide Sixth Amendment right to counsel services. Those counties with populations exceeding 100,000 — Douglas County (Omaha), Lancaster County (Lincoln) and Sarpy County (Papillion) — are required to establish public defender offices with popularly elected chief defenders at the helm. Counties with less than 100,000 residents can voluntarily establish such an office, and where they choose to do so their chief public defender must likewise be locally elected. Approximately one-quarter of all counties have done so (23 elected defender systems in Nebraska’s 93 counties). Not all of the elected defenders work full-time; many have private practices in addition. All other counties use either a contract system, an assigned counsel system, or a combination of both to provide representation.
The state-level Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy (NCPA) employs a small, six-attorney office that provides direct representation only in capital trials, appeals, and some serious non-capital felonies involving drugs and violent crime.
Nebraska Constitution, art. I, § 11
Nebraska Revised Statutes, §§ 23-3401 through 23-3408 (county public defenders), §§ 29-3901 through 29-3908 (indigent defendants & appointed counsel), §§ 29-3909 through 29-3918 (judicial district public defenders), §§ 29-3919 through 29-3930 (commission on public advocacy), and §§ 43-272 through 43-273 (conflict counsel & juvenile court)
Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff, augmented by the Nebraska Minority Justice Committee, Report to the Nebraska Supreme Court on Indigent Defense Systems and Fee Structures (2006).