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.
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.