Quick Guide

  • Cost Per Capita: $13.37
  • State Funding Level: 95% County Funding
    5% State Funding
  • State Independence: No Commission
  • Primary Delivery Model: County-Based System

In Nebraska, each county is responsible for its own indigent defense system. There are three basic systems: the elected public defender system, the assigned counsel system, and the contract system. Some counties have all three operating at the same time, with one primary system.

Some of the contract public defenders have local “policy boards” intended to provide independence to the program; however, there are many contracts for indigent defense services in Nebraska created directly between the county board and the contractor, with no attempt to provide independence.

According to a recent survey by the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have a public defender system as their primary indigent defense mechanism. Twenty-three counties, including most of the largest counties, have an elected public defender system (some are part-time) and 15 have some form of a contract public defender system (all are part-time). The remaining counties seem to use assigned counsel on a case-by-case basis. There is no evidence that any county, including the larger counties that use assigned counsel for conflicts, has anything but an ad hoc system of assigned counsel in which individual judges make appointments.

The only state funds that go to indigent defense are those appropriated to the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, an agency that represents individuals in particular homicide cases and other drug or violent crime felonies. There is no structure for ensuring uniform quality across the state.