If you cannot afford to hire a defense attorney in a criminal case where jail time is a possibility, you are entitled to the services of a public defender, or if the public defender is not eligible, a private attorney appointed and paid by the State to represent you. In February 2014, the Nebraska Supreme Court adopted Neb. Ct. R. § 6-1525, § 6-1467, and § 6-1704, mandating “a transparent process for appointment of counsel for indigent defendants” in criminal and juvenile cases.
The Supreme Court required each judicial district to pass a local rule formalizing their appointment process no later than January 1st, 2015. Some judicial districts did not meet that deadline, but are expected to publish local rules in the near future. While the requirements of the Supreme Court rules are rather simple, many of the judicial districts have used this opportunity to implement significant changes. One change that appears to be the same among jurisdictions is the appointment of defense counsel on a rotating basis from a list of attorneys who have declared themselves eligible and willing to receive criminal court clients.
Some districts have a vetting process for court-appointed attorneys built in to their rules. For example, one district maintains attorney lists based on the highest level of case the court believes an attorney is competent to take. At least one district’s local rule does not make distinctions between attorneys based on experience, but gives priority to attorneys whose offices are located in the same county as the appointment. This rule enables the courts to reduce the costs of attorney travel time and mileage. You can read each court’s rules at the following link: https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/rules/external.