Joe Nigro misunderstands the duties of an elected public defender. An elected public defender whose salary is paid by taxpayers must lead by example: taking cases, mentoring lawyers in and out of court, and being visible. This doesn’t seem to be happening.
I worked in the Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office as an Assistant Public Defender from 1989 to 2013. I supported Nigro during his first campaign because I believed he would continue Dennis’ legacy of effective leadership Keef. I was wrong.
While I was there, Keefe, the elected public defender, was actively handling the cases. I remember presiding over a jury trial with him in the 1990s. He also handled a variety of other cases in addition to his other duties. Before I retired in 2013, people helped each other and shared responsibilities.
In the Journal Star Voters’ Guide, Nigro says that taking cases is not important and that “arguing that the leader should take cases betrays a naïve misunderstanding of what the job entails.” Nigro is the one who misunderstands the job or wants to shirk his responsibilities.
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Other elected Nebraska public defenders, including in Douglas, Hall and Sarpy counties, handle cases, are in court and in office. The Lancaster County prosecutor recently completed a murder trial. There is no reason for Nigro’s lack of workload, and the highly competent office manager takes care of the budget and staff supervision. In reality, the experienced chief deputy handles many other tasks that Nigro gives him, in addition to his own workload.
An elected official must do his job, which involves being in the office, advising lawyers, taking cases and being in court.