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History of the Public Defender
1971 to 1978
From 1969 to 1970, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners studied the idea of establishing a Public Defender's Office to represent individuals in all felony criminal cases prosecuted in the County and District Courts.
1979 to 1990
In January of 1979, Dennis Keefe who had previously served as the office's first law clerk (1971-1973) and then as a deputy (1973-1975) became Lancaster County's second elected public defender.
1991 to 1998
In 1991, at the request of Lancaster County Public Defender Dennis Keefe, John Guthery, then President of the Lincoln Bar Association, appointed a special committee to study and make recommendations concerning the system of assigned counsel currently in use in the various courts of Lancaster County.
1999 to 2002
In its 28th year of existence, the Lancaster County Public Defender's Office experienced a number of changes in staff.
2003 to 2008
In January of 2003, The Nebraska Minority and Justice Task Force, a joint initiative of the Nebraska Supreme Court and the Nebraska State Bar Association, issued its Final Report.
2009 to 2011
In a letter to the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners dated May 19, 2009, the Juvenile Court Judges informed the Board that they no longer wished to use the contracts to provide legal services in the Separate Juvenile Court of Lancaster County and asked the Board to let the contracts expire as they came to the end of a term.
2012 to 2013
Major recommendations included legislation redefining when appointed counsel was mandated in certain juvenile cases and the development and implementation of a billing software system for assigned counsel to allow easier , more efficient review and payment of bills and to provide data for better planning by the courts.
In February of 2014, the Public Defender's Office was added as a participant in the last year of a three year grant focusing on youth who were re-entering their communities following stays at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, in Kearney and Geneva.