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Departments and Agencies

Department of Public Advocacy


OUR MISSION is to provide high quality, client-centered legal representation to indigent persons of all ages, accused of crimes or facing a deprivation of liberty throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Our fulfillment of this mission is essential to the defense and protection of fundamental constitutional rights and the preservation of a fair and just criminal justice system. As we fulfill this mission, we seek to address our clients’ needs as members of our society. We passionately advocate for alternatives to costly incarceration and provide access to services which help to make clients more productive members of their communities, thereby saving costs, reducing recidivism, and making our communities safer.


A half century ago the Kentucky Supreme Court held that "common justice demands" that an attorney must be appointed when a person charged with a felony is too poor to hire his own counsel. Gholson v. Commonwealth, 212 S.W.2d 537 (Ky. 1948). In the 1960s Kentucky attorneys began to request compensation when they were forced to represent indigents charged wit​h a crime. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court determined that if a state wants to take away a person's liberty, it has to provide an attorney to those persons too poor to hire their own in order to comply with the Federal Constitution. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). While consistently unsuccessful in convincing Kentucky's highest Court that the judiciary could and should order payment, Kentucky's appointed attorneys did persuade the Kentucky Supreme Court to the point that the Court began to directly encourage the General Assembly to provide a systematic solution for paying the attorneys who were being made to represent the accused.


Each year, DPA attorneys, investigators, mitigation specialists, alternative sentencing workers and administrative specialists handle over 140,000 trial and post trial cases statewide. These include involuntary commitment, juvenile cases, misdemeanors including DUI, and felonies including complex and difficult cases including sex abuse, murder, and cases where death is sought as a penalty.

To best serve our clients, DPA is organized into four divisions:


2020 DPA Annual Report