In June 2017, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law a bill creating the Nevada Right to Counsel Commission.Nevada SB 377 (2017) The commission will examine public defender workloads, establish minimum standards of representation, and determine how best to fund Nevada’s public defense system.Supreme Court of Nevada, “Governor Signs Bill Creating Statewide Indigent Defense Commission,” press release (Carson City, NV: Supreme Court of Nevada, June 12, 2017). The culmination of a decade-long effort by Nevada’s Supreme Court, the commission will be composed of appointees from all three branches of government representing a wide array of interests.David Carroll, “Nevada Establishes Statewide Right to Counsel Commission,” Sixth Amendment Center, June 9, 2017. It will report its findings by September 1, 2018, so that the reforms recommended can be considered during the 2019 legislative session.David Carroll, “Nevada Establishes Statewide Right to Counsel Commission,” Sixth Amendment Center, June 9, 2017.
In October 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court announced its support of the reforms recommended by a task force commissioned to address the challenges facing Tennessee’s public defense system.Tennessee Supreme Court, “Tennessee Supreme Court Backs Changes to State’s Indigent Representation Structure,” press release (Nashville, TN: Tennessee Supreme Court, October 3, 2017). The recommended reforms include creating a statewide Indigent Defense Commission; creating a state Appellate Defender Office; and increasing compensation rates for assigned counsel, currently the second-lowest in the nation.Indigent Representation Task Force, Liberty & Justice for All: Providing Right to Counsel Services in Tennessee (Nashville, TN: Indigent Representation Task Force, 2017). This announcement came soon after a report published in August 2017 by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) division on Civil Rights and Social Justice, which found that “[v]olunteer lawyers repeatedly observed both judges and prosecutors violate indigent defendants’ right to counsel under Tennessee law."Stephen F. Hanlon, Thomas B. Harvey, and Norman Lefstein, Denial of the Right to Counsel in Misdemeanor Cases: Court Watching in Nashville, Tennessee (Washington, DC: American Bar Association, 2017), 7. The ABA report found that judges and prosecutors routinely failed to advise poor people facing misdemeanor charges carrying jail time of their right to counsel.Ibid. at 9. Also see Topher Sanders, “Misdemeanor Defendants Facing Jail Time Not Told They Have a Right to Counsel, Bar Association Finds,” ProPublica, August 14, 2017.