- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The chief justice of Nevada’s Supreme Court urged lawmakers to reform the state’s bail laws and improve representation of indigents, especially in rural areas.

Rural defendants who can’t afford a lawyer often are jailed longer than their urban counterparts while awaiting trial, Chief Justice Michael Cherry said in his State of the Judiciary address to the Legislature last week.

“In urban counties, defendants can count on a public defender to provide prompt representation,” he said, according to the Nevada Appeal newspaper in Carson City (https://tinyurl.com/zdw63y6). “However, in rural parts of the state, indigent defendants may sit in jail waiting for an attorney while witness memories fade and the case grows cold.”

Cherry called on lawmakers to create an Indigent Defense Commission to push for improvements in the system.

In Wednesday’s speech, the chief justice said a pilot program that studies bail and the release of defendants before trial is succeeding after seven months in Clark, Washoe and White Pine counties. The traditional bail system leaves poorer people behind bars for too long, he said.

“Too many people lost jobs and homes because they were forced to sit in jail,” Cherry said.

He said the program determines who should be released before trial and has shown it can identify higher- and lower-risk defendants.

Cherry also praised $3 million budget increase to Nevada’s specialty courts last session, which also is reflected in the proposed 2018-2019 budget.

Those courts are breaking defendants’ social patterns, such as drug use and alcoholism, and helping them succeed, he said.

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Information from: Nevada Appeal, https://www.nevadaappeal.com

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