ACLU, Nevada settle lawsuit over public defense in rural counties

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A settlement has been reached in a 2017 class action lawsuit against Nevada, and a court-appointed monitor will be assigned to make sure 10 rural counties provide legal representation to defendants who can’t afford an attorney.

This applies to cases in which defendants face the possibility of a prison sentence.

In a statement released Thursday, the ACLU described the settlement as “a huge step” in remedying a longstanding public defense crisis.

The monitor will be assigned for a minimum of three years, according to stipulations of a settlement in Davis v. Nevada, a lawsuit that targeted the failure to provide “meaningful representation” to low-income people.

“We have talked about this issue for a long time in Nevada, so this is a huge step forward,” said ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Sherrie Royster. “Lower income Nevadans have the right to receive equal treatment from the criminal justice system whether they are in an urban or a rural area, and this settlement is a sign that Nevada is finally taking that responsibility seriously.”

The settlement builds on 2019 legislation to overhaul the state’s public defense system

Diane Davis, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, said, “I’ve seen how important the public defense system is with my own eyes, and I’ve seen how bad it is when that system doesn’t work. I hope this settlement means other people will have better experiences with public defenders.”

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