A Short History of the Public Defender

The Davidson County Public Defender’s Office was created by a Private Act of the Tennessee Legislature in 1961, and the first Davidson County Public Defender was elected in 1962. In 1963, the original Metro Charter recognized the continuation of the Davidson County Public Defender’s Office. The Public Defender is elected for a four-year term.

The Public Defender’s Office was originally located in the Metropolitan Courthouse. The office was later divided into two divisions:  The Adult or Criminal Division, located at 150 2nd Ave. N., Suite 400, and the Juvenile Division, housed at the Juvenile Justice Center at 100 Woodland Street. The Adult Division relocated to 2nd Ave. from Parkway Towers in 2023.

The Public Defender’s Office represents clients in General Sessions Court, Criminal Court, Juvenile Court, and on cases appealed to both the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Supreme Court.

The office has grown from a single full-time lawyer to a staff of over eighty, including forty-seven attorneys. The Public Defender’s Office employs investigators and social workers to assist with its work. The attorneys represent defendants on charges ranging from public drunkenness to first-degree murder. The Office also provides guardian ad litem services for indigent children who are the subject of neglect and dependency proceedings in Juvenile Court.