Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
Kentucky’s Public Advocate Elected Co-Chair of Nation’s Chief Defender Council
(Frankfort, KY, December 1, 2005) Kentucky’s Chief Public Defender has been named to lead The American Council of Chief Defenders. Ernie Lewis, serving his 3rd term as Public Advocate for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, will serve as co-chairman of the ACCD. The national organization is dedicated to promoting fair justice systems by advocating sound public policies and ensuring quality legal representation to people who are facing a loss of liberty or are accused of a crime and cannot afford an attorney. The ACCD is a section of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA).
A primary issue being addressed by ACCD is that of burgeoning caseloads among public defenders nationwide, a reality well known among Kentucky’s public defenders. Most recent data in Kentucky reveals the average trial lawyer handles 483 cases annually, a caseload which exceeds national standards by 89%.
Kentucky public defenders opened over 134,000 cases at the trial level in Fiscal Year 2005. A series of public meetings across the state over the past year has investigated the problems that such case overload causes for clients, courts, and attorneys alike.
“The staff of public defender programs nationwide protect what we value most - our liberty and our life”, Lewis states. “I’m appreciative of the confidence that has been placed in me by this appointment”.
A native of Missouri, Lewis received his BA degree from Baylor University, a Masters of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University, and graduated from the Washington University Law School in St. Louis. He has been with DPA since his graduation from Law School in 1977.
Lewis has been on the faculty of the National Criminal Defense College since 1985, currently serves on the faculty of the National Defender Leadership Institute, has been a member of the Executive Committee of the American Council of Chief Defenders and has testified on indigent defense issues before task forces in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Louisiana. In 2000, Lewis was selected by the Kentucky Bar Association as Kentucky's Outstanding Lawyer.