Thursday, November 8, 2012

Harlan Public Defender Office Opens



 The Department of Public Advocacy has realigned the Bell County Public Defender Office headed by Linda West that had covered Bell and Harlan Counties into a Bell Office and a Harlan Office which opened its doors on July 23, 2012.

   The new Harlan Public Defender Office is located at: 120 Professional Lane, 2d Floor, Harlan, KY 40831, 606-573-2501. The Harlan County public defender employees are: attorneys Daniel Schulman and Laura Karem, investigator Jessica Gibson and administrative specialist Traci Bowman. “We are glad to be closer to our clients and the leaders in the Harlan criminal justice system. We are trying to represent our clients the way we’d want to be represented, professionally, vigorously and focused on fair outcomes,” Daniel Schulman said. DPA Regional Manager Roger Gibbs of London, KY, identified the importance of this office to Harlan, “The new office in Harlan is an example of the commitment of DPA to be a part of the communities it serves.  A local office will mean better fulfillment of the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel.  I am proud that Daniel, Laura, Jessica, and Traci are breathing life everyday into the fundamental promise of justice for all.”

Today at the official opening ceremony Harlan County Judge Executive Joe Grieshop welcomed establishment of the local office, “This office in Harlan will allow our citizens represented by public defenders to have better access to their lawyers because the office is located in our county. It also helps our criminal justice system, judges, prosecutors, pretrial release officers, law enforcement and jailers, to work more efficiently with defenders located here as opposed to Pineville. Our criminal justice system can only function well if it has the confidence of the people. That takes an efficient system that insures timely, fair and reliable results. Having public defenders located in Harlan helps our community better achieve that assurance.”

Jerry Cox of Rockcastle County, Chair of the Public Advocacy Commission, the statewide public defender governing board, said it is important to have an office in Harlan because “we know that the empirical evidence demonstrates that having counsel at the initial appearance before a judge improves the likely outcome for a criminal defendant.  A defendant with a lawyer at first appearance:


  •  Is 2 ½ times more likely to be released on recognizance 
  • Is 4 ½ times more likely to have the amount of bail significantly reduced
  • Serves less time in jail (median reduction from 9 days jailed to 2, saving county jail resources while preserving the clients' liberty interests)
  • More likely feels that he is treated fairly by the system.”


“The right to counsel is not an academic matter,” Middlesboro’s Mike Bowling, a member of, the Public Advocacy Commission and former Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said. “It makes a difference to have a lawyer. Counsel is the gateway through which the other individual liberties are made real. Just as a judge,

prosecutor, police officer, legislator, doctor, or teacher makes a difference, a defense lawyer makes a difference in the achievement of just outcomes arrived at through a fair process. Public defenders in Harlan are making a difference for people.”

Public Advocate Ed Monahan said that “Public defense provides public value. Public defenders who are criminal defense experts, who have manageable workloads, and who have professional independence ensure that the rights guaranteed by our Constitutions are protected and ensure that no one’s liberty is taken unless and until they are proven guilty.  Public defenders lower costly incarceration rates for counties and states by

  • being present at first appearances and advocating for pretrial release for those presumed innocent;
  • advocating for reduced sentences based on the facts of the case;
  • developing alternative sentencing options that avoid incarceration and provide individually based treatment and reduce recidivism;
  • Assisting clients upon sentencing   with reentry needs including employment, housing;
  • Preventing expensive wrongful convictions.”

During the office ceremony, Public Advocate Ed Monahan presented a plaque to local attorney and long-time public defender Bob Thomas who recently retired. It honored his 19 years of service to thousands of clients. It reads:


Robert A. Thomas

In recognition of his

public defender service to his clients and to the Commonwealth of Kentucky

1993 – 2012