The Office of the Public Advocate contains the agency’s central leadership. In addition to guiding the direction of all agency action, the Public Advocate’s office manages legal compliance, policy structure, legislative advocacy, education, training, and strategic planning.
Damon Preston, Public Advocate
Damon Preston is a career public defender and leads DPA as Kentucky’s Public Advocate. After graduating from Transylvania University and Harvard Law School, Damon began his legal career in the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society in New York City. He returned to Kentucky in 1997 and has been with DPA ever since. First a staff attorney in the Richmond trial office, Damon led the Paducah and then Cynthiana offices as Directing Attorney. Starting in 2004, he managed DPA’s Appeals Branch before joining DPA’s Leadership Team as Trial Division Director in 2007. Early in 2011, he was appointed Deputy Public Advocate and remained in that position until his appointment as Public Advocate in 2017. In addition to work through DPA, Damon serves on the board of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and is the past chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Kentucky Bar Association. He lives in Georgetown with his wife Amy and daughters Abbie and Marissa.
B. Scott West, Deputy Public Advocate
B. Scott West is Deputy Public Advocate for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy in Frankfort, Kentucky; prior to that, Scott was General Counsel for the agency for six years. Scott has also served as the Bluegrass Regional Manager in the Richmond, Kentucky Field Office, the Directing Attorney for Murray, Kentucky Field Office, and a staff attorney in the Hazard, Kentucky Field Office. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky Law School (1988), and Vanderbilt University (1985). He is the editor of the Kentucky Pretrial Release Manual, published in July, 2013 and leads the agency’s efforts in pretrial release advocacy. Currently, he is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association’s (KBA) Ethics Committee, and is Education Chair and Vice-President of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (KACDL). He is a past Chair and current member of the KBA Criminal Law Section. In 2017, he received the KBA Thomas B. Spain CLE Award for presenting the Criminal Law Update in several Kentucky Law Update seminars and in 2015 he received the Bruce K. Davis Bar Service Award for representing the KBA against the United States in the Kentucky Supreme Court. He received KACDL’s Frank E. Haddad, Jr. Award in 2014, DPA’s Gideon Award in 2011, and the Texaco General Counsel’s Litigation Award in 1993. Scott is married to Beverley, a social worker, and father to Hannah, a student at the University of Kentucky and a member of the varsity Mock Trial Team. They live in Richmond.
Melanie Lowe, General Counsel
Melanie Lowe grew up in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. The daughter, granddaughter, and niece of steelworkers; she was the first of her family to graduate from college upon receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and English from Marshall University. She went on to graduate from the University of Kentucky, College of Law in May of 2000. Shortly after, she began her career as a public defender in the Elizabethtown Trial Office. During her 17 years as a public defender, she proudly represented clients for the Elizabethtown Trial Office, the Kentucky Innocence Project, Adult Post-Conviction, the LaGrange Trial Office and the Shelbyville Trial Office. Melanie was the 2016 Gideon Award Recipient. She resides in Henry County.
Melanie Foote, Manager, Education and Strategic Planning Branch
Melanie Foote joined the Education Branch in 2015. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego and her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. She is a member of New York and Kentucky State Bars and has been practicing in Kentucky since she joined the Adult Post Conviction Branch of the Department of Public Advocacy in 2007. While in the Post Conviction Branch, Melanie represented adult clients on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, mistake in the proceedings, and claims of actual innocence. In that role, she secured the release and exoneration of Mr. Jason Girts, who had been wrongfully convicted based on false statements made by a child relative. In 2009, she joined the Kentucky Innocence Project to work exclusively on DNA based claims of actual innocence. At the completion of the DNA Grant in 2010, she began representing clients in district, circuit, juvenile and family court in the Elizabethtown and LaGrange Trial Offices. While at the Elizabeth Trial Office, Melanie had the pleasure of representing Mr. Jose Padilla, after his case was vacated and remanded by the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Padilla’s charges were ultimately dismissed after a period of deferred prosecution, allowing him to remain in the United States. Melanie is a faculty member of the 2017 Public Defender Trial Advocacy Program in Dayton, Ohio.
Cheyla Bush, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Director
Cheyla Bush has been appointed as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Director in the Office of Public Advocate. Cheyla graduated from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law and received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from University of Louisville, graduating Cum Laude. Cheyla was a summer intern with DPA in 2014 and joined the LaGrange Trial Office full-time in 2015. She then moved to the newly opened Shelbyville Trial Office in 2017, and two years later, she transferred to the Frankfort Trial Office. Throughout her career with DPA, she assisted with New Attorney and Intern Trainings. Cheyla has been an active member of DPA’s DEI workgroup and has actively participated in many of the agency’s recruiting efforts over the years, including traveling to several university and college job fairs as a representative of the agency. Cheyla earned her DEI Certificate from the University of South Florida. She was the 2020 Defender Uprising Award Recipient. She resides in Fayette County.