- Associated Press - Friday, February 3, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Lancaster County public defender and sheriff are pressing county commissioners to hire more staff for their departments to keep up with the rising caseload.

Public Defender Joe Nigro and Sheriff Terry Wagner lobbied to expand their staff Thursday during the County Board’s mid-year budget assessment, as well as in letters to the board, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2jL3rbH ) reported.

Nigro said he needed four more attorneys and a paralegal to keep up with the felony caseloads. Wagner wanted six more deputies because of employee safety.

The public defender caps how many cases its 22 attorneys can take. Once the cap is reached, a private attorney is assigned to a given case. Nigro said 600 cases could go to private attorneys this year if the rising caseload continues, which he argued would cost the county more money than hiring additional public defenders.

He said it would be cheaper to hire public defenders because Lancaster County District Court pays private attorneys a little more than $113,600 for the same annual workload Nigro pays his entry-level attorneys less than $93,500 to do.

County attorneys filed over 2,000 felony cases in 2016, almost 42 percent more than the year before. Nigro said felony drug cases represented the largest category increase, with many of them for possession of trace amounts of drugs found on paraphernalia.

The County Board added another attorney to County Attorney Joe Kelly’s staff in December.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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