Appointment of Counsel in Criminal Cases

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Appointment of Counsel in Criminal Cases

   A. Authority. Pursuant to Neb. Ct. R. §§ 6-1525 and 6-1467, the judges of the District and County Courts of Lancaster County (the Courts) adopt this rule to appoint counsel for any person who is financially unable to obtain representation in felony and misdemeanor cases pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 29-3901 to 29-3908 and §§ 29-3001 to 29-3004 (Reissue 2008 and Cum. Supp. 2012).

   B. Statement of Policy. This rule shall be administered so that those eligible for services pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 29-3901 to 29-3908 and §§ 29-3001 to 29-3004 (Reissue 2008 and Cum. Supp. 2012) will not be deprived of representation because they are financially unable to pay for representation. The further objective of this rule is to particularize the process for court appointments in Lancaster County, Nebraska.

   C. Appointment of Private Attorneys. The Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office shall have first priority to be appointed for any indigent defendant in all criminal cases within the county. In those cases where the Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office has a conflict and the case is one where the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy may be appointed, the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy will have priority for appointment. This rule establishes the process for the appointment of private attorneys to represent indigent defendants when the Public Defender and Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy are not available. The rules for the composition, administration, and management of the panel of private attorneys pursuant to Neb. Ct. R. §§ 6-1525 and 6-1467 are set forth below.

   D. Duties of Appointed Counsel. Attorneys appointed shall conform to the highest standards of professional conduct. Neb. Ct. R. of Prof. Cond. § 3-501.1 requires a lawyer to provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, preparation, and judgment reasonably necessary for the representation. If an attorney cannot properly represent a defendant on his/her charge(s), the attorney has a duty to decline appointment or withdraw from the case.

   E. Composition of Panel. The panel of eligible attorneys shall consist of a list of all licensed attorneys who have requested and are willing to accept appointments in criminal cases in the district. The list shall include the name, Nebraska bar number, office address, telephone number, and email address of each attorney. The Lancaster County Court Appointment Coordinator shall maintain the list, and the information concerning the members of the panel (name, bar number, address, telephone, and email only) shall be open for public inspection upon request.

   Attorneys who serve on the panel must be members in good standing of the Nebraska State Bar Association, are expected to demonstrate experience and knowledge of the Nebraska Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Nebraska Rules of Evidence, and must display skill in representation and trial advocacy. Members of the panel shall serve indefinitely and continuously at the pleasure of the Courts.

   F. Procedure for Appointments. The Lancaster County Court and District Court use computer software which automatically selects attorneys for case appointment in an efficient and unbiased manner. Appointments from the panel will be made on a rotational basis, subject to the court’s discretion to make exception due to the nature and complexity of cases.

   To facilitate the procedure and to ensure quality representation of indigent defendants in all types of cases, the panel of court appointed attorneys will be divided into the following categories of appointment:

❑ Homicide-(Murder 1 or 2) & Felony 1 Cases                  ❑ Misdemeanor Cases

❑ Felony 2 and 2A Cases                                                                     ❑ Traffic-DUI Cases

❑ Felony 3, 3A, and 4 Cases                                           

   G. Request for Appointment. To be considered for appointment to the panel, a private attorney shall complete the form entitled “Appointment Request Form” (Appendix A) and shall file it with the Lancaster County Court Appointment Coordinator. The County and/or District Court judges will review the request and place the attorney on the list in the appropriate category/categories. In the event a decision is made that the attorney is placed in a category or categories different than those requested, he or she will be notified in writing. If an attorney disputes their category placement, he/she may submit their reason for such dispute. The dispute will then be considered by the County and/or District Court judges and a decision, made by a majority of the County and/or District Court judges will be provided to the attorney, in writing. Any private attorney on the panel may request to be removed from the panel at any time by sending a letter to the Lancaster County Court Appointment Coordinator, 575 South 10th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508, or by sending an email to nsc.lancaster.cc@nebraska.gov.

   H. Maintenance of Panel. An attorney may be removed or suspended as appropriate, from one or more appointment categories by a majority decision of the County and/or District Court judges (depending upon the category). If an attorney is removed or suspended, he/she will be notified in writing. If an attorney disputes removal or suspension, he/she may respond by submitting a reason for the dispute and a current resume to the Court at the address or email in Paragraph G above. Reinstatement will then be considered by the County and District Court judges.

   I. Effective Date. This rule shall become effective January 1, 2015.

Approved November 26, 2014, effective  January 1, 2015; (F) amended September 23, 2015.