Churchill County announces the recent establishment of a Public Defender’s Office as a new county department.
The county’s decision to transition from indigent defense services with contracted public defenders to a full-time county Public Defender’s Office was a combination of rising contract costs and a push across the state for counties to adopt employee-based public defender offices to ensure a greater level of accessibility and equitability of representation for indigents.
“We are very excited with the opportunity to bring on a Public Defender with a history of providing indigent defense services and someone who has pre-existing positive connections in the community to do this work,” said County Manager Jim Barbee of the decision to hire Jacob Sommer, Esq. as the county public defender.
The Churchill County Public Defender’s Office was established in November and is fully staffed with three positions: public defender, deputy public defender and legal secretary. The office is temporarily located at 485 West B Street, Suite 105 (County Annex Building) in Fallon. It will move to its permanent location in the old Dodge House (formerly occupied by the Fallon Chamber of Commerce) at 85 N. Taylor Street in early 2021 following the completion of renovations on that property.
The office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number is (775)428-6054.
Public Defender – Jacob Sommer, Esq.
Churchill County’s Public Defender, Jacob Sommer, Esq., has been a Nevada licensed attorney since 2007.
Previous to joining the county in 2020, he practiced in his private firm representing clients for civil and criminal matters. He has extensive criminal defense experience for felony cases with penalties of lifetime imprisonment in addition to simple misdemeanor cases. Since 2012, he has been under contract to provide public defender services for Churchill County.
“My drive to work as a Public Defender is fueled by a recognition that each of us are much more than the worst things we have ever done,” he explained when asked about his interest in defending clients. “It is an honor to be involved in building something here at the Churchill County Public Defender’s Office that is so important because we get to serve those that need a great deal of help.”
Sommer clerked for the Honorable David Huff in the Third Judicial District Court in Fallon for a year in the mid-2000s where he conducted legal research and drafted bench memorandums for review and evaluation while serving as courtroom bailiff.
He also has experience working for the Office of Federal Defender in Las Vegas where he assisted with in-depth, complicated legal research and writing appellate briefs to the Nevada Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
He attended the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on full scholarship and graduated in 2006 with honors in clinical representation of juvenile defendants and legal writing while serving on the Dean’s Honor List.
Deputy Public Defender - Wright Noel, Esq.
Deputy Public Defender Wright Noel joined the Public Defender’s Office in 2020. Also a Nevada licensed attorney, he clerked for Judge Thomas Stockard at the Tenth Judicial Court in Fallon for a year after moving to Churchill County following his graduation from Brigham Young University Law School in 2019. His undergraduate work was completed at Southern Virginia University in 2016.
Noel explained his passion for his career field: “Here, in America, we allocate resources both toward enforcing the law and ensuring that before being sent to prison people receive the protections guaranteed them in the Constitution. That is my job. I use my legal training to ensure that every individual accused of a crime in Churchill County is afforded the protections promised them by the Constitution. I love this work and feel honored to be performing it in such a wonderful place as Fallon.”
Since moving to Churchill County, Noel and his family have fallen “completely in love” with the community. “We have been embraced by this community in a way we never could have imagined,” he said.
Legal Secretary – Frank DeBraga
Born and raised on his family's farm here in Fallon, Frank DeBraga played football at Churchill County High before attending college at Colorado Mesa University on a football scholarship. There he earned a degree in criminal justice and interned with the Colorado State Public Defender's Office.
Upon returning to Nevada, he earned a master's degree in criminal justice from the University of Nevada, Reno where he also worked as a teaching assistant.