Should Douglas County have a public defender office? Share your thoughts Sunday

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Local residents can share their opinion of whether Douglas County should have an adult felony public defender office during a meeting coming up Sunday afternoon.

Defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to an attorney, and if they can’t afford to pay for one, judges can appoint one for them. 

In a handful of Kansas counties, attorneys who handle these “indigent” defense services work in one regulated public defender office. In others — Douglas County included — there is a panel of private attorneys who accept appointed cases. They’re all paid by the Kansas State Board of Indigents’ Defense Services, or BIDS. 


Whether Douglas County should change its system to have one central office for public defenders has been an ongoing topic of conversation for local criminal justice leaders. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council heard a presentation on what that process could look like in Douglas County almost a year ago on Aug. 12, 2020. That video is below.

The public hearing is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. A livestream will be available to view at

Written public comments can be emailed to Administrative Staff Attorney Brandon Barrett at until 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6. Seating at the hearing will be first-come, first-served, and face masks will be required for all attendees. 

Those who wish to provide public comment at the hearing can sign up ahead of time by emailing BIDS Director Heather Cessna at by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6. A speaker sign-up sheet will also be available at the event. 

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