Public Defender

In Pennsylvania, there is a statute requiring all counties except Philadelphia to create and fund a public defender's system. The public defender in Philadelphia is an association which is not part of the county or state government. In many states, the public defender is a statewide entity with local branches in the governmental subdivisions, such as counties.

In Lancaster County, the County Commissioners appoint a chief public defender, who is full-time. Currently, there are 24 assistant public defenders:
  • 23 are full-time
  • One is part-time
The attorneys receive an annual salary. There is a support staff consisting of investigators, paraprofessionals, secretaries, and a deputy administrator.

When conflicts of interest prevent the Public Defender's Office from serving on particular cases, the county court appoints private lawyers and compensates them.

Case Representation

In 2014, The Public Defender’s Office opened approximately 7,182 adult cases.  Public Defender attorneys represent adults in all types of criminal cases, ranging from capital murder cases to summary cases involving the possibility of incarceration.  The representation extends to original criminal prosecutions, probation and parole violation proceedings, and appeals.  Public Defender attorneys practice before Magisterial District Judges, the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, the Pennsylvania Appellate Courts, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

A smaller portion of the adult caseload in comprised of support contempt cases and indirect criminal contempt cases arising under the Protection from Abuse Act.

 In 2014, the Public Defender’s Office opened approximately 600 juvenile delinquency cases.