Joe Nigro is a lifelong Nebraskan. He graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln with a B.A. in 1980 and a J.D. in 1983. Joe has worked in the Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office as an attorney for the last 34 years, successfully representing thousands of people. In 2014, Joe was elected as the Lancaster County Public Defender. Joe has been married to Shari for 32 years and they have three children: Margaret (30), Betsy (28), and Nick (26).
Joe served on the board of the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association and currently serves as a member of the House of Delegates for the Nebraska Bar Association. Joe also serves on the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Committee, the Justice Behavioral Health Committee, and the Board of Directors for The Bridge.
Joe has served the community in a variety of ways. He was chair of the Lincoln Cable TV Advisory Board, chair of the UNL College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Board, and was a board member of the UNL Alumni Association. Joe was also the Mayor’s Liaison to the Lincoln Public Schools, a member of the LPS Curriculum Council, and was a member of the LPS Calendar Committee. He was president of the Lincoln East Parent Advisory Committee, and coached youth soccer, basketball, and football for 12 years. Joe is the current chair of the Christ United Methodist Administrative Council.
Joe is currently chairing a committee to establish mental health courts in Nebraska.
Why I am running for Re-Election as Public Defender:
Four years ago, I vowed to continue the tradition of our office providing the highest quality legal representation while accomplishing the following: 1) adding a social worker to serve our many clients with mental health and substance abuse issues; 2) working to establish a mental health court to reduce the number of people with mental health issues caught up in the criminal justice system; and 3) participating in criminal justice reform efforts.
Four years later, the quality of legal representation provided by our office is at the same high level. We have added a social worker who is doing a fantastic job helping to get clients in treatment and therapy, and helping attorneys to convince courts to release clients from jail and place them on probation. I am chairing the Nebraska Supreme Court Mental Health Court Committee, charged with establishing mental health courts across the state. I helped influence the development and implementation of L.B. 605, the largest criminal justice reform legislation in nearly 40 years. Last year I worked with Senator Pansing Brooks on legislation to give judges more discretion when sentencing people for driving on a revoked license. I worked with Sen. Morfeld on bond reform legislation to reduce the number of people held in custody simply because they are poor. I worked with Sen. Hansen to introduce legislation that would end the practice of jailing the poor to satisfy fines. Those proposals were all enacted.
In the next four years, my goals are to: Maintain our high quality of legal representation by our office while 1) ending the criminalization of poverty by working to end the money bond system; 2) reducing the number of people with mental health issues in the criminal justice system by completing our work to establish mental health courts, and by advocating for an increase of mental health services in our state and community; and 3) ending the failed War on Drugs by working to start treating addiction as a health problem, not a criminal one.
I believe accomplishing these goals will ultimately reduce crime, treat people more humanely, increase safety, and save the taxpayers money. Our office will continue to defend the rights of our clients, protecting all of us. I hope the people of Lancaster County will endorse these efforts and vote for me.