Without comment other than from the Sheriff and the Coroner, the County Commission today approved a process for selecting attorneys to serve as “ombudspersons” at coroner’s inquests, and to represent the interests of the decedent’s family as well as the public. The ACLU of NV supports having an ombudsperson but has the following concerns about the process that was put into place, including:

(1) It allows law enforcement to play a role, which undermines the independence of the ombudsperson. The key goal of recent reforms to the process was ensuring that the role of law enforcement and the DA be balanced, and allowing law enforcement to pick the attorneys to play the role of serving as that balance has no valid purpose.

(2) Anyone who serves as an ombudsperson -- and anyone from their firm -- is prohibited from representing anyone in a use of force suit against Metro for 2 years before and 3 years after an inquest. The prohibition is the opposite of what the legal ethical rules would prohibit - representing law enforcement in any matter related to any specific inquest in which the ombudsperson represented the interests of the decedent’s family or the public. Further, such a broad prohibition will both unduly limit the pool of qualified ombudspersons.

Read the ACLU of Nevada’s complete written testimony on the selection process.

Commissioner Collins suggested that the Commission could stop the inquest reforms from moving forward by not approving any process, and the Police Protective Association has also threatened to derail the process. However, the inquests will move forward with or without participation by officers.