Public Defender

First Judicial District
Public Defender Jeff Kelly
2203 McKinley Road Suite 2203
Johnson City, TN 37604
(423) 434-6845

The First District Public Defenders Office provides legal counsel for persons accused of crimes who are not able to afford an attorney. Public Defender Jeff Kelly was appointed in 2009 to replace the late Bob Oaks, who had been elected to an eight-year term in 2006. In 2010, Kelly was elected to fill the remainder of that term, which expires in 2014.

Born in Knoxville and raised in Indiana, Kelly returned to the area to attend Milligan College, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee-Knxoville in 1987, and has worked for the First District Public Defender's Office since 1989.

The Public Defenders Office receives funding through the Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference. In addition to Kelly, another 10 attorneys work for the office, covering cases in Washington, Unicoi, Carter and Johnson counties. Public Defenders are assigned to specific counties. 

Statewide, 31 districts have public defenders offices, a system created in 1989 as an alternative to the practice of court-appointed private attorneys. At the state level, the Executive Director to the District Public Defenders Conference oversees budgeting, payroll, purchasing, personnel and administration in each district.