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About the Public Defender


The Cuyahoga County Office of the Public Defender office was created in 1977 to provide legal services to indigent adults and juveniles charged with violations of the criminal code. Our Office provides consistently excellent representation and vigorous advocacy to protect the rights of low income people in criminal, juvenile delinquency, and parental rights matters. We treat each client with dignity and respect and tailor our representation to meet their unique needs. We ensure that our clients receive an ardent defense and equal justice throughout their involvement with the legal system.

Over the last 40 years, the Office has grown in both size and scope. Our Office now consists of over 130 employees consisting of attorneys, social workers, investigators, paralegals, law clerks, and other support staff. The Office is composed of the following four divisions:

  • Felony: Our Felony Division represents indigent adults charged with felony crimes in the General Division of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas. Every year we defend the rights of thousands of Cuyahoga County residents charged with felony crimes ranging from capital murder to felony drug offenses.

  • Juvenile: Our Juvenile Division represents indigent juveniles charged with offenses and indigent parents in abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings involving Children and Family Services. Every year we advocate for thousands of children between the ages of 12 and 18 and defend the parental rights of thousands of parents.

  • Municipal: Our Municipal Division has a contract with the City of Cleveland to provide legal representation to all individuals charged with crimes, carrying the possibility of a jail sentence, in Cleveland Municipal Court. On an annual basis, we provide legal representation in nearly 20,000 cases including initial appearances in felonies charged in the City of Cleveland.

  • Appellate and Post-Conviction: Our Appellate and Post-Conviction Division provides representation to indigent children and adults convicted of crimes and indigent parents who have lost their parental rights in direct appeals to the Eighth District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court. We also handle a variety of other post-conviction matters including the sealing of felony records for adults.

Since 2017, the Office has been led by Chief Public Defender Mark A. Stanton. Mark Stanton has devoted his legal career to the criminal justice system. He began his career in 1977 when he was appointed to be an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio. Thereafter, he became an Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor and was assigned to its Major Trial Division. In 1983, Mr. Stanton began a private practice dedicated primarily to defending the rights of those accused of crimes. He has served as lead trial counsel in over 200 major felony trials and in more than 60 death penalty cases. He has also served as lead trial counsel in 14 death penalty trials. He has represented criminal defendants in over 200 murder cases as well as countless other serious charges in state and federal courts. He has also represented criminal defendants in the Eighth District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court. He also served previously as a Magistrate in Parma Heights for 7 years.

Mr. Stanton’s expertise in criminal defense has led him to speak at dozens of professional seminars on trial practice, expert witnesses, jury selection, closing argument, and the death penalty. He has received numerous professional awards and is a past president of the Cuyahoga County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Mr. Stanton chaired a committee tasked with reforming the criminal justice system by providing open discovery in criminal cases. He also served on the Task Force on Judicial Excellence which sought to improve the quality and integrity of the Bench in Cuyahoga County.