An effort to require legal representation for juveniles appearing in court has bogged down in the Unicameral, leaving the sponsor scrambling for the votes she needs to advance the bill.
State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln tells colleagues state law requires juveniles 14 and under to have lawyers when they appear in court; those 15-to-18 are required to have lawyers only in cities with populations of 150,000 or more; Omaha and Lincoln.
“This arbitrary and inconsistent right to counsel makes no logical sense. It’s justice by geography and by age,” Pansing Brooks tells colleagues during legislative floor debate.
Pansing Brooks proposes a solution: Legislative Bill 158.
LB 158 would require all juveniles throughout Nebraska to have lawyers present to represent them in legal proceedings. A hang-up Pansing Brooks had hoped to overcome was how to pay for it. She proposed taking money from the court automation fund, but the legislature failed to pass that amendment.
Pansing Brooks is working the Unicameral, attempting to find the 33 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and force a vote on the bill.
Most rural lawmakers see extending the provision as costly and unnecessary.
Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus doesn’t see a need for the bill.
“This point in time, no state or federal court has said we have got to do what this bill does,” Schumacher says during floor debate. “If we pass this bill, it is our mandate, we can’t pass the buck to anybody else.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]