TRIAL LEVEL PUBLIC DEFENDER OFFICES
History of Public Defender Offices
The present Board succeeds the Board of Supervisors of Panels to Aid Indigent Defendants (1969 Legislature - KSA 22-4501 et seq.) which was abolished on the effective date of the 1982 legislation. The first two public defender offices (3rd Judicial District - Topeka, and 8th Judicial District - Junction City) were authorized and organized in FY 1972, and the third (28th Judicial District - Salina) was set up in FY 1973. The 18th Judicial District Public Defender Office (Wichita) was created in FY 1985, although it began its phase-in during the latter part of FY 1984. On July 3, 1989, the 10th Judicial District Public Defender Office (Johnson County) began accepting indigent felony appointments. The 25th Judicial District Office (Garden City) began accepting cases in January, 1994. The 27th Judicial District Public Defender Office (Hutchinson) opened in June of 1996. The Johnson County Office opened a satellite office in Miami County in June of 1996. In August of 1996, the Garden City Office began accepting cases at a satellite office in Liberal, Kansas. The Northeast Kansas Conflict Office began accepting cases in July of 1997 and the Southeast Kansas Public Defender office began accepting cases in August of 1997. Additional geographic area has been added to the regional offices in FY 1999 and FY 2000, but no additional offices have been opened.
Third Judicial District Public Defender Office (Topeka)
This office was one of three pilot public defender programs begun in 1972. The office continues to aid assigned counsel by providing useful advice when requested. The office staff continues the tradition of teaching at Washburn Law School, presenting continuing legal education programs, speaking to schools and civic organizations, and attempting to promote public understanding of the justice system. The office is currently staffed by 10 attorneys, support staff that includes one investigator, two legal assistants, and three clerical staff. For FY 2000 the Third Judicial District Public Defender Office completed work on 1,829 cases.
Salina Public Defender Office
The Salina Public Defender=s Office began defending the indigent in Saline and Ottawa counties in 1972. One attorney handled the trial and appellate caseload until around 1986 when a second attorney was added to the staff. In 1988 the office was combined with the Junction City Public Defender Office to form the North Central Regional Public Defender Office. With regionalization, the territory served by the office was significantly enlarged from Saline, Ottawa, and (later) Lincoln counties to also include Cloud, Mitchell, Jewell, and Washington counties in the Twelfth Judicial District. A third attorney was added around 1990. In 1997 the board separated the Salina and Junction City offices in order to streamline management efficiencies. The office is currently staffed by six attorneys and support staff that includes one investigator and three clerical staff. The Salina office handled 840 cases during FY 2000.
Junction City Public Defender Office
The Junction City Public Defender Office was formerly part of a regional office in combination with the Salina Public Defender Office. As of June, 1997, the office became independent serving the 8th and 21st Judicial Districts. The 8th Judicial District consists of Geary County, Dickinson County, Marion County, and Morris County. The 21st Judicial District is comprised of Riley and Clay counties. The Junction City Office is responsible for felony representation in the above mentioned judicial districts with steadily increasing caseloads in all counties. During FY 2000, the Junction City office handled 1244 felony cases, an increase of 203 cases over FY 1999. The office is currently staffed by six attorneys and support staff that includes two investigators and three clerical staff.
Sedgwick County Regional Defender
The Legislature authorized funding for the largest office in the state in Sedgwick County in October, 1983. The office began taking cases in June 1984. In FY 2000, this office completed 3,413 cases, an increase of 246 cases over FY 1999. The office remains staffed by nineteen attorneys and support staff that includes three investigators, one social worker, three legal assistants and five clerical staff. No additional FTE are planned for FY 2001.
Reno County Regional Defender
A satellite office in Reno County was established in FY 1997 and was established as a separate regional office in FY 2001. This office is currently staffed by two attorneys and one clerical support staff. The office handled 471 cases in FY 2000. The excessive caseload, in part, brought about the establishment of this office as a regional office for FY 2001. The addition of one attorney will allow representation on high level felonies in the surrounding counties of Rice, Barton, Stafford, and Pratt. In addition, the Reno County office is Aon call@ for appointment on any high level felony cases in west-central Kansas.
Tenth Judicial District Public Defender Office (Olathe)
The office began accepting cases in July of 1989. In June of 1996 a satellite office was opened in Miami County. In addition to serving Johnson and Miami counties, the office is responsible for handling homicides in Linn, and Franklin counties. The office is staffed by eleven attorneys and support staff that includes two investigators, three legal assistants and two clerical staff. The office completed work on 2,296 cases in FY 2000, an increase of 251 over FY 1999.
Western Kansas Regional Public Defender Office (Garden City & Liberal)
The Garden City office, established in January of 1994, serves the 25th Judicial District, which includes Finney, Kearny, Hamilton, Greeley, Wichita, and Scott counties. The office also takes selected upper-level felonies throughout the western region of the state. Finney County case filings remain fairly predictable, but the outlying counties fluctuate greatly and the required travel time to these areas greatly affects attorney efficiency. Local court procedures in Finney County contribute to the difficulty of handling cases in a timely, efficient manner. During FY 2000 the office in Finney County handled 444 cases. The office is currently staffed by only three attorneys, two clerical positions and an investigator.
The Liberal office opened in August of 1996 in response to requests from the Administrative Judge in the 26th district because all private attorneys had removed their names from the appointment list because of dissatisfaction with the rate of compensation. The 26th Judicial District includes Seward, Stevens, Morton, Stanton, Grant, and Haskell counties. This office is currently staffed by two attorneys and one clerical position. During FY 2000, the Liberal office handled 272 cases.
Southeast Kansas Public Defender Office (Thirty-first Judicial District office)
This office began accepting cases in September of 1997. The office, located in Chanute, was established in response to a lack of local attorneys willing to represent indigent defendants at the $50 per hour rate paid by the agency. The Thirty-first Judicial District includes Allen, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson counties. In addition, the office is responsible for felony appointments in Greenwood County and for homicide appointments in Coffey, Anderson, and Bourbon counties. During FY 2000 the office closed 466 cases. The office is currently staffed by three attorneys and one legal assistant.
Northeast Kansas Conflict Office
The office, located in Topeka, began accepting cases on July 1, 1997. The office was established primarily in response to the large number of conflict cases generated in Shawnee County and the relatively high costs associated with these cases. In addition, the office is responsible for defending clients charged with off-grid homicides in Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Pottawatomie, Wabaunsee, Osage, and Lyon counties. In addition, the office has accepted appointments in other counties when requested by local judges. The office has experienced steady caseload growth. The office accepts appointments on an extraordinary high percentage of off-grid homicides and in FY 2000 completed 391 cases. This office is currently staffed by three top trial attorneys and support staff that includes one investigator and one legal assistant.