Washoe County public defender resigns, cites family medical issues
Washoe County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously accepted the resignation of Public Defender John Arrascada, taking his recommendation to appoint his chief deputy, Evelyn Grosenick, as interim public defender until a permanent replacement is chosen.
The public defender leads an office of three dozen attorneys who represent people who are under arrest and held for a public offense but cannot afford a lawyer. During an interview Wednesday with The Nevada Independent, Arrascada, who has held the role since 2018, said he resigned because of private family medical issues.
“The commitment I have to my family has led me to the conclusion that I can no longer effectively serve as Washoe County Public Defender and that my private practice of law can permit me to be more present and available to my family,” Arrascada said in his resignation letter to the county, which he forwarded to The Nevada Independent on Wednesday.
Clark and Washoe counties are required by state law to appoint a public defender, and the county is expected to hire a permanent replacement for Arrascada by July 17.
Arrascada was hired in 2018 with an annual salary of a little more than $173,000. His last day in office was Feb. 23, but he is using roughly seven weeks of sick leave, making April 14 his last official day as Washoe County public defender.
One of Arrascada’s highest-profile cases as Washoe County public defender was serving as the attorney for Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman — a man found guilty of killing four Northern Nevada residents in 2019. Arrascada has also testified in favor of abolishing the death penalty to the Nevada Legislature.
In his resignation letter, Arrascada describes his time as public defender as “the most professionally and personally rewarding” of his career, specifically noting that his tenure saw a staffing increase of 25 percent and the hiring of support staff to assist in training and bolstering the size of their social work intern program.
He also said he was proud of his office’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its transition to working remotely.
“Now that my stewardship is ending, I firmly believe the office is in a position to excel to greater heights and success than ever before,” Arrascada said in his resignation letter.
Grosenick, the interim replacement, has worked for the Washoe County Public Defender’s Office for nearly a decade. Before her time with Washoe County, she served under Judge Garland Burrell as a judicial law clerk for the District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento and later as a judicial law clerk for Judge Janet Berry at the 2nd Judicial District Court in Reno.