New PD backs up original PD

An unusual new public office in Washoe County came into existence this year—the Alternate Public Defender.

The APD was created to handle cases that the public defender offices can’t handle due to conflicts of interests. Conflicts arise in cases with multiple defendants or when public defender clients are charged with crimes against other public defender clients.

Jennifer Lunt was appointed to the position in March. She had served as interim public defender when Mike Specchio retired (that job later being filled by Jeremy Bosler). Her new office, the first in Nevada, was up and running, making court appearances on July 2.

Previously, these cases had been handled by private attorneys. Jack Alian had a $916,000 county contract to disperse adult criminal conflict cases to local attorneys. David Spitzer had a $198,000 contract to handle conflict representation in specialty courts—drug court, diversion court and mental health court.

The APD consolidates all conflict cases under one county office with a budget of $1.4 million. In addition to adult criminal cases, the APD office will also handle conflicts arising in juvenile court and family court cases where social services has taken legal custody of parents’ children.

“I think this is going to be a huge improvement to the systems they had in place,” Lunt said. Representation from a single source will make it much easier for clients to contact lawyers regarding their cases. In the past, it could be difficult for clients to find out who their attorneys were. Lunt said her office is much more in line with American Bar Association standards.

The APD department consists of a staff of 15 that includes nine lawyers, including Lunt, two investigators and four support staff to assist clients. This group will handle more than 2,500 cases per year, and Lunt sees this case load growing. “Unfortunately, there’s never a shortage of people who need the services,” she says.

On Aug. 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the APD is having an open house. People can stop by to meet the staff, ask questions and get a tour of Washoe County’s newest department. APD offices are located at 350 S. Center St. on the sixth floor.

“The Fourth Amendment is only as strong as justice served each day,” Lunt says. “That’s why there’s a need for the type of attorney’s that are here in the APD’s office.”