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At a Glance (as of 2013)

Percentage of state funding: 100%
Percentage of local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
State commission: none
Branch of government: executive


Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services

In 1972, Vermont created the Office of the Defender General. The Defender General is a direct gubernatorial appointee that oversees primary and conflict indigent defense services related to criminal matters, as well as juvenile cases (delinquencies and dependencies). The central office in Montpelier houses an administrative office, the state appellate defender, a juvenile unit and a prisoners’ rights unit.

Primary trial-level services are provided through a combination of public defender offices with fulltime staff attorneys and contracts with private law firms. Vermont has 14 counties, eight of which are served by public defender offices (Addison (1 attorney); Bennington (4 attorneys); Chittenden (12); Franklin & Grand Isle (2 counties served by 3 attorneys); Lamoille (1); Rutland (4); and Windham (4)). Private law firms provide services in the remaining six counties: Caledonia/Essex (Wiley & Powers); Orange (Sedon & Ericson); Orleans (Wiley & Powers); Washington (Rubin, Kidney, Myer & DeWolfe); and Windsor (Marsicovetere Law Group). One other contract law firm, in Addison County (Marsh & Wagner), handles only juvenile cases in that county.


When any one of these counties needs relief from caseload, the Office of the Defender General has three “caseload relief” contracts. One attorney handles caseload in the northern part of the state, one in the South, and one handling serious felonies anywhere in the state.

The Defender General also contracts with a private attorney to run the managed assigned counsel system for conflict representation. The managing attorney appoints cases to other private attorneys qualified to handle different cases by case type (felony, misdemeanor, appeals, post-conviction, delinquency and dependencies). Two private lawyers, paid hourly, handle all appellate matters. One handles adult matters and one handles juvenile matters (though both handle the other one’s conflicts). Two other private lawyers handle all post-conviction conflicts (and trade conflicts of their own). There are six attorneys qualified to handle any serious felony conflicts anywhere in the state. The Defender General pays attorneys to handle all other conflicts in the 14 counties: Addison (6 assigned counsel); Bennington (5 attorneys); Caledonia (6); Chittendon (12); Essex (4); Franklin (9); Grand Isle (7); Lamoille (5); Orange (3); Orleans (6); Rutland (7); Washington (6); Windham (6), and, Windsor (8).

Statutory Authority

Code Vt. R. 13 163 § 5201 through § 5277

Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff.