Contracts for Indigent Defense Services

The 1990s saw a proliferation of contracts for indigent defense services in Lancaster County. Care was taken from the beginning to account for quality services and avoid the low bid as the only measure of concern. This was accomplished through an advisory group nominated by the Lincoln Bar Association and appointed by the County Board. Contractors were protected by caseload limits. The contracts are all for child support cases, paternity cases, and juvenile court representation.

Workload Crisis

In February of 1993, Lancaster County Public Defender Dennis Keefe advised the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners of a workload crisis in the Lancaster County Public Defender's Office. The crisis was based upon a record of five pending capital felony cases, one second degree murder case, and a serious attempted second degree murder case. Keefe advised the Board that the workload, as calculated pursuant to a formula previously designed by The Spangenberg Group and approved by the Board of Commissioners, indicated the addition of 1.5 full time staff attorneys. However, anticipating that the influx of capital cases and other serious cases might be temporary, Keefe suggested temporary contracts with private lawyers to handle the child support enforcement, paternity and mental commitment cases.

Law Firm Contract

Subsequently, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners approved a two year contract with the law firm of Mowbray-Walker, P.C. whereby that law firm was responsible for representing clients in the child support enforcement cases and paternity cases for an annual fee of $33,000. The contract began on April 1, 1993 and expired on March 31, 1995. The law firm of Mowbray-Walker, P.C. hired Shawn Elliott, a former Legal Services attorney, as an associate to be responsible for these caseloads. In 1995, the county changed contractors. The new contractor for this docket was the firm of Ugai and Lindgren, primarily Susan Ugai and Sharon Lindgren. This contract has continued until the present time.

James Hoppe

Also in 1993, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners approved a one year contract with Lincoln attorney, James Hoppe for a $7,000 annual fee. That contract also began on April 1, 1993 and terminated on March 31, 1994.

Juvenile Court Contract

The juvenile court contracts began with a contract with Legal Services of Southeast Nebraska for representation of individuals in abuse/neglect cases. This contract was expanded in scope in 1999 when Legal Services agreed to represent children in law violation cases where the public defender has a conflict, and in some status (truancy) cases. In 1995 the county entered into a contract with a private law firm, Orton, Thomas, Peterson, for abuse/neglect cases. In 1999 2 additional contracts were signed for the same type of cases with the firms of Glynn and Bollerup (Rich Bollerup and Jennifer Huxoll) and Anderson, Creager, and Wittstruck (Tom Lamb and Amie Martinez). All of these contracts were for a three year period.