Weighted Caseload Study

Collaboration with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC)

The Department of Indigent Defense Services (DIDS), in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), is conducting a weighted caseload study to determine the appropriate numerical caseload/workload standards for providers of indigent legal representation in the rural counties of Nevada. The study will result in the production of recommended caseload standards for rural indigent defense providers that accounts for (a) variation in counties and courts, (b) variation in delivery models, and (c) the variation in distance between courts. The project will also include participation by investigators and support staff in the rural counties and will provide staffing recommendations for those positions as well.

All rural indigent defense service providers, including attorneys, investigators, support staff and social workers are expected to participate. Without full participation, we cannot develop these important standards and will not have adequate metrics to help us determine staffing needs for these critical positions. The weighted caseload study, which is overseen by an advisory committee comprised of public defenders, contract attorneys, administrative staff, county managers, an investigator and DIDS representatives, will provide the basis on which to develop these critical standards.

The weighted caseload time study of current practice will occurred between January 25 and March 5, 2021. Participation in the time study by all rural attorneys, investigators, support staff and social workers was critical to the success of the project and will ensure that the data collected will provide a complete and accurate description of the workload across the state. Time study participants were provided with user IDs and passwords for the website that has been designed for data entry for this study. 

Although 100% of the staff that was expected to participate in the study did so, the study did not result in the immediate development of average case processing times by case types for attorneys. Case filings were lower than usual, bench and jury trials were not conducted at pre-pandemic rates, and hearings were either canceled or held remotely. Additionally, attorneys traveled less to meet with clients or, in some cases, could not access clients in detention settings. These factors altered the time attorneys normally spend on case work and with clients compared to pre-pandemic times. Finally, complete case counts could not be obtained in a consistent manner, further hampering the NCSC's ability to calculate case weights.

All of these issues combined resulted in the need to suspend work on this project until more complete data could be obtained. The Department will begin collecting data on the number and type of cases on which attorneys are working, along with the number of hours spent on those cases in October 2021. The NCSC will work with the Department again, as soon as 6-9 months of data have been collected, to develop a recommendation for case weights.

As the leader in workload assessment for courts and justice system partners in the U.S. and internationally, the NCSC employs a sophisticated multi-method approach to translating caseload into workload. The highly participatory process integrates empirical data with stakeholder perspectives on quality of justice and effective practices. NCSC has conducted workload assessments for judges, court staff, probation and parole officers, prosecutors, and public defenders in 35 states. To learn more visit the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) website.

For more information on the study, please contact Suzanne Tallarico at stallarico@ncsc.org.