The Louisville-Jefferson County
Public Defender Corporation

The Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defender Corporation is a non-profit organization rendering legal services in the largest jurisdiction in the state of Kentucky to indigent adults and juveniles accused of crimes and status offenses, and to those who are subjected to involuntary hospitalization due to mental illness.


The office functions as a full-service law firm providing defense representation in all state courts at every level, as well as appellate and post-conviction advocacy in both the state and federal courts.

Mission Statement

To provide independent, effective, high-quality representation to individual clients in the spirit of the Public Defender’s Credo* and in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct. To work interdependently with other professionals in the courts and leaders in the executive, legislative and judicial branches, along with the citizens of the Commonwealth, to advance the interests of our indigent clients and improve the operation of the criminal justice system.


Public Defender’s Credo:

“I am a public defender. I am the guardian of the presumption of innocence, due process, and fair trial. To me is entrusted the preservation of those sacred principles. I will promulgate them with courtesy and respect, but not with obsequiousness and not with fear for I am partisan; I am counsel for the defense. Let none who oppose me forget that with every fiber of my being I will fight for my clients. My clients are the indigent accused. They are the lonely, the friendless. There is no one to speak for them but me. My voice will be raised in their defense. I will resolve all doubt in their favor. This will be my credo; this and the Golden Rule. I will seek acclaim and approval only from my own conscience. And if upon my death there are a few lonely people who have benefited, my efforts will not have been in vain.”


*Adapted from the Creed originally authored by James J. Doherty, Cook County (Illinois) Public Defender

History of the Office

The Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defender’s office was organized and incorporated on August 20, 1971, the first full-time public defender program in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Its offices opened for business the following spring, 1972, and its staff attorneys began representing indigent defendants pursuant to court appointments. Later that same year, Governor Wendell Ford, at a ceremony in Louisville, signed into law KRS Chapter 31, which created a statewide public defender system. The Public Defender’s office in Louisville Metro continues to function to date as the oldest and largest defender office in the state, and has achieved national acclaim for its advocacy, along with a reputation as a model program for the representation of indigent defendants at trial and on appeal in the state and federal courts.


The office operates a mixed caseload/vertical representation system in accordance with the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice (both Providing Defense Services and Defense Function), as well as the ABA’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System. As such, individual clients are represented by the same attorney throughout all stages of the proceedings from appointment until final disposition of the case.


We expect you will have many questions about your case and your public defender. Frequently asked questions are listed below. If you do not find the answer to your question here, please contact the office by selecting the “Contact Us” tab from the top of this page. We will respond to you as quickly as possible.

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Who is my lawyer?

If you are indigent and qualify for a public defender, the court will appoint a lawyer from the Public Defender’s office to represent you. The Louisville Metro Public Defender’s Office provides defense representation to all persons in Jefferson County who the court determines are unable to afford an attorney to defend them on pending criminal charges.


Once the Court has appointed the Louisville Metro Public Defender to represent you, your case will be assigned to one of our staff trial attorneys. If you are in custody, you can expect an in-person visit from that attorney at the detention facility within 48 hours of the court appointment. If you are out-of-custody, you will receive a letter from your attorney within a week of the court appointment concerning your case and asking that you contact him or her to arrange a date and time for a meeting at our offices. In emergency situations, you may call our 24-hour, 7 days a week answering service (502-574-3800) for assistance and an on-call attorney will return your call as soon as possible.

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When is my trial?

Your initial court appearance is normally in Arraignment Court. The presiding Judge will inform you of the charges against you, set bond or non-financial conditions for your release, inquire about your legal representation, and schedule your next court date. You also can look up your next court date on the Kentucky Court of Justice Website.

Know your rights.

You are protected by the United States and Kentucky Constitutions if you are being investigated by the police or even after you have been arrested. It is critical to know your rights in order to defend yourself and your loved ones. Find out how you can help yourself during a criminal investigation or prosecution by clicking on the stages of a criminal case below.

Important Update

With the passage of HB 568 by the Kentucky Legislature on March 16, 2023, the legal services provided by the Louisville – Jefferson County Public Defender Corporation (“Public Defender Corporation”) will be terminated as of June 30, 2024. The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (“DPA”) will provide those legal services beginning on July 1, 2024.


As a result, Public Defender Corporation will cease its regular business and operations on June 30, 2024. For further information regarding the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, including employment opportunities, please go to:


Beginning July 1st, you can contact the DPA Louisville Trial Office at this toll-free number: 833-934-5953. If you need to call the DPA Frankfort Office, that number is: (502) 564-8006.