Our Mission Statement
The over-arching duty of the Office of the Defender General remains the assurance that persons entitled to appointed counsel receive effective legal advocacy. For each client, we are obligated to provide effective legal representation with reasonable diligence, promptness, and a zealous commitment to their interests. As part of the criminal justice system, we must provide representation in a cost-efficient manner, thereby serving not only our clients, but all citizens of the State of Vermont.
Divisions and Programs
In 1972, the Vermont Legislature passed the Public Defender Act, Title 13, Chapter 163 and created the Office of the Defender General (ODG) which began discharging the constitutional right of needy persons charged with serious crimes to representation. The ODG is also statutorily required to provide counsel consistent with its attorney’s ethical obligations and the Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure in the following matters: to children who are the subject of juvenile proceedings as alleged delinquents; to parties in juvenile proceedings including children in need of care and supervision (CHINS) as required by the interests of justice; to children in the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families; to persons in the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections; and, to needy persons in extradition, or probation or parole revocation proceedings.
The Office of the Defender General has evolved into a complex service delivery system consisting of two separate programs, Public Defense and Assigned Counsel. There are three tiers of service provision, with the first being county public defense offices. When there are conflicts with public defense, the case is then assigned to an assigned counsel contractor. And when there are conflicts with both public defenders and assigned counsel contractors, the court assigns an attorney on an ad hoc basis.
There are twelve full-time public defense field offices located throughout the state. Seven of these offices are staff offices. Five of these offices are public defense contract offices, that is, private law firms that have entered into a contract with the Defender General to provide public defense services. One law firm has a small contract in Addison County to provide representation to parties in juvenile proceedings. Two caseload relief contractors provide assistance to staff offices statewide.
Post-Adjudication Offices and Juvenile Representation
There are also two offices that handle matters post adjudication. The Appellate Defender handles appeals to the Supreme Court. The Prisoners' Rights Office represents persons in the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections. The Juvenile Defender's Office represents juveniles in state custody, and, at times, the parents of juveniles in state custody in matters of delinquency, CHINS and termination of parental rights.
Assigned Counsel Contractors
Assigned Counsel Contractors are private attorneys who contract with the Defender General to provide services in criminal and juvenile cases when there are conflicts with the public defenders. The objective is to ensure that in most counties there are at least two contractors to take conflict cases.
Ad Hoc Counsel
Ad hoc counsel are assigned by the court when there are conflicts with all staff and contract attorneys. Payment is set by Vermont Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 4.
Serious Felony Units
There are seven Serious Felony Units designed to provide representation in cases involving potential life term imprisonment and major felonies. They provide stability and quality representation to clients charged with the most serious crimes.