Public Defender History & Mission
The Mission of the Bannock County Public Defender’s Office is to protect and defend the rights of our clients through compassionate and inspired legal representation of the highest quality, in pursuit of a fair and unbiased system of justice for all.
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the assistance of counsel for his defense. Over the decades of time that have passed since this foundational principle was penned countless men and women have dedicated their time, resources and entire careers to accomplishing this monumental feat one case at a time.
The first state sponsored Public Defenders Office to open was in California. On January 6, 1914, Los Angeles County appointed Walton J. Wood as the first public defender in U.S. history. Under Wood’s leadership, the new Public Defender’s Office handled over one hundred cases per week. This was a huge leap forward for our country, but there still lay before us enormous challenges to face. Indigent defendants throughout the country routinely faced the government without legal counsel.
New hope emerged for greater equality in our justice system in the spring of 1963 when a landmark case, Gideon v. Wainwright, was decided by the Supreme Court. Clarence Gideon had represented himself at his first trial, where he was convicted. After asking the judge to appoint him a lawyer, he then wrote his own petition to the Supreme Court. Gideon was granted a second trial and appointed a public defender. The jury acquitted him after deliberating for one hour. Gideon’s efforts ultimately led to the establishment of the right to counsel for all defendants, juvenile or adult, facing a loss of liberty. In honor of Clarence Gideon’s courage and determination, Public Defender now assemble across the country with deep personal and professional commitments to provide the highest quality legal counsel for their clients.
Bannock County appointed Randall D. Schulthies as its first Chief Public Defender in 1995. Randall quickly began serving clients and organizing the new office housed in the Old Bannock County Jail with David R. Martinez as Chief Deputy Public Defender and Janelle Christensen serving as Lead Paralegal. Under his leadership the Public Defender’s Office has continued to grow and evolved into the dynamic and highly skilled group of dedicated professionals it is today. Please take a moment to visit our “ABOUT US” page to read more about our attorneys and office staff.