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2019 Annual Public Defender Conference

Public Employees honored as part of Recognition Luncheon

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 2019) - On June 11, 2019, public defenders and many special guests from around the Commonwealth gathered at the Crowne Ballroom in Louisville, Kentucky for the 47th Annual Public Defender Conference Recognition Luncheon, to celebrate defenders for exceptional service to the criminal justice system. Of the ceremony, Public Advocate Damon Preston said, "This is our biggest event of the year. We get to celebrate the good work of many of our employees and do it in front of our guests who honor us with their attendance" 

Preston welcomed friends from the court system, General Assembly, and the Kentucky Bar Association, as well as former leaders of the Department of Public Advocacy.  The theme at this year's conference and luncheon was "Make a Mark, Find Your Legacy."  As Public Advocate Preston explained, "To us, being a public defender is not just being a cog in the wheel of justice, but an opportunity to make a difference for clients. To make a difference individually in their lives by standing by them, by providing a voice and presence on their side, and by seeing them and treating them as a human being, not a caricature borne of their worst moment. Also to make a difference for clients collectively by being part of a force that's moving the system towards justice, fairness, and the protection of liberty. A public defender should never acquiesce to business as usual; rather, we should examine daily where we can bring change for the betterment of clients, for DPA, for the criminal justice system, and for the people of the Commonwealth at large. We want to Make a Mark, Find a Legacy so tomorrow is a little more just, maybe a little more fair, a little more dignified, a little more free because of the work we have done."


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Facing Crisis, Defenders Grateful for Funding in Newly Enacted Budget Though Challenges Remain

In his budget address in January, Governor Bevin asked the legislature to make investments in public safety with additional funding for law enforcement, prosecutors, and public defenders.  Adopting the Governor’s recommendations, the General Assembly’s recently enacted biennial budget includes increases in funding for the Kentucky State Police, Commonwealth Attorneys, County Attorneys, and the Department of Public Advocacy (“DPA”).  Public defenders are grateful that Kentucky leaders have recognized the need to invest in public safety, including indigent defense, during this difficult time.

Kentucky public defenders have been underfunded for many years.  This chronic underfunding has culminated in a crisis in the current fiscal year.  To meet the requirements of court-ordered appointments, DPA has been operating with a deficit for most of the biennium.  Just after the start of this fiscal year, DPA implemented a hiring freeze to address the deficit. Caseloads spiked with some offices averaging more than 900 new case assignments per attorney.  Such workloads are more than triple the national standards.  At the same time, DPA cut other expenses, including training, travel, and office resources.  Despite cutting expenses and having more than three dozen vacant positions, DPA projected a nearly $4 million budget deficit for FY18.  Without funding assistance, DPA would be out of resources to survive the fiscal year and unable meet court-ordered and constitutional responsibilities.