Legal Defender


The Legal Defender's Office fulfills the State's constitutional obligation to provide legal services to persons who are indigent and face a loss of their liberty or family. The U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Gideon vs. Wainwright and In Re: Gault during the 1960s, require states to provide lawyers to represent criminal defendants and minors who are unable to pay for their own attorney. These cases sought to ensure that all persons are treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law. Legislation implementing these decisions now mandates these legal services and places the primary responsibility on counties for providing them.

The mission of the Legal Defender's Office is to provide these services in a respectful, caring, competent and cost-effective manner. The Legal Defender comes under the same statutory authority as the Public Defender. See, A.R.S. §§ 11-581 - 11-587. The county founded the Legal Defender's Office in November 1998 to supplement the role of the Public Defender's Office. Ethical rules limit the representation of the Public Defender's Office to one person in a case or prohibit it from representing a person, when it represents a witness or victim in the same or related matter. The Legal Defender's Office is the "second tier" in this system and coordinates the appointment of counsel to the other persons in any particular case.

Like the Public Defender, the Legal Defender can only act as counsel if specifically appointed by the Court and for the following persons:

  • Criminal Defendants
  • Delinquent Minors
  • Parents in Dependencies
  • Parents in Parental Rights Termination Cases
  • Children in Dependencies
  • Children in Parental Rights Termination Cases
  • Witnesses in Criminal Trials
The office also assigns attorneys to serve as guardian ad litems for children and occasionally parents in dependency or termination cases. This office also occasionally assigns attorneys to serve as guardian ad litems for parents, if a court determines that the parent may be legally incompetent. The children and parents are not their clients. Guardian ad litems are an independent voice in the courtroom and advocate what is best for a child or parent.

The Legal Defender's Office fulfills its responsibilities in a hybrid manner. It has three in-house attorneys, one of whom is the director, who provide direct representation of clients in the Superior and Justice Courts of Coconino County. It also contracts with private attorneys to provide representation.


"Governments, both state and federal, quite properly spend vast sums of money to establish machinery to try defendants accused of crime. Lawyers to prosecute are everywhere deemed essential to protect the public's interest in an orderly society. Similarly, there are few defendants charged with crime, few indeed, who fail to hire the best lawyers they can get to prepare and present their defenses. That government hires lawyers to prosecute and defendants who have the money hire lawyers to defend are the strongest indications of the widespread belief that lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries. The right of one charged with a crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with a crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him."

United States Supreme Court Justice Black in Gideon v. Wainright, 372 U.S. 335, 344 (1963)

"The right [of a person charged with a crime] to be heard would be, in many cases, of little avail if it did not comprehend the right to be heard by counsel. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crime, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Left without the aid of counsel he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible. He lacks both the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense, even though he have a perfect one. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence."

United States Supreme Court Justice Sutherland in Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 68-69 (1932)


  1. These web pages are provided solely for informational purposes. Viewing this website and communicating with staff or an attorney with the Office of the Legal Defender does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
  2. 2. Any communications (whether by email, letter, telephone or in-person) with the staff and attorneys employed with the Office of Legal Defender are not confidential or privileged, unless the court referred you to the Legal Defender for assignment of an attorney and you are assigned an attorney employed with the office. (Communications with staff and attorneys employed with this office are not confidential or privileged, if assigned an attorney in private practice under contract with Coconino County.)
  3. Representation is limited to providing advice and counsel to a person on the case referred to the Legal Defender for assignment of an attorney by order of the courts and not other matters. The Legal Defender cannot advise a person on other legal matters confronting a person referred to the office.
  4. The attorneys with the Office of the Legal Defender are only admitted to practice in Arizona and can only provide advice on cases pending in the Arizona courts.