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About OPD

The Office of the Territorial Public Defender (OTPD), a semi-autonomous agency of the judicial branch of Government, was established under Title 5, Chapter 302 §3520 et seq., Virgin Islands Code for the purpose of representing indigent criminal defendants that appear before the Superior and Supreme Courts of the Virgin Islands.


The OTPD is comprised of two district offices, one on St. Thomas and the other on St. Croix. Each Division of the Office is comprised of attorneys that are licensed to practice law in the Virgin Islands or specially admitted to practice law in the Virgin Islands on behalf of the Office of the Public Defender. The support staff includes secretarial, investigative and clerical personnel as determined necessary by the Chief Public Defender within the scope of legislative appropriations. Other support staff includes an Administrator, Assistant Administrator, two (2) receptionists, a data entry clerk, two (2) messengers and two (2) custodians. All employees of the Office are unclassified and are members of the Government Employees Retirement System. In total the entire staff territorially comprises of thirty-six (36) employees.

The work of the OTPD involves long and hard hours in and out of the courtroom; as well as in and out of the office. The investigative staff begins working from 6am and is often the first person an arrestee sees in the mornings after the Correction Officer. Evening and weekend hours are necessary based on the workload and trial schedules. Attorneys often carry home the burdens of very difficult cases, particularly those involving violence, abuse of children; those where significant jail time can be imposed. The lives of our clients, their property and liberty rest on our shoulders daily. And these types of serious cases are growing. In spite of it all, the staff tries very hard to be responsive, sensitive and successful in the representation of our clients. The representation goes pass a trial, it continues through a probationary period, appeals, a sentence of imprisonment and even counsel is required after acquittals. The OTPD has fulfilled its statutory obligations and constitutional mandates of criminal defense of indigent persons. Additionally, our work involves trying to improve the whole person.

Administration Board

The OTPD is governed by the Public Defender Administration Board, which consists of five (5) persons; the President of the Virgin Islands Bar Association or his designee; two (2) are appointees of the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, one (1) whom must be a resident of the St. Thomas/St. John District and one (1) a resident of the St. Croix District; one (1) appointee of the Governor of the Virgin Islands and one (1) appointee of the President of the Virgin Islands Legislature. The terms of the members appointed by the Governor and the President of the VI Legislature are the same as the terms of the persons who appoint them. Of the two (2) members appointed by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, one (1) shall serve for three (3) years and one (1) shall serve for two (2) years. A vacancy on the Board is filled for the un-expired term of the vacant member.

Board Room

The Board hires, and is authorized to terminate, all personnel and staff for the Office upon the recommendation of the Chief Public Defender. The Chief Public Defender is appointed for terms of three years and may be terminated only for cause during his/her term. The Board hears and decides on all complaints and grievances of employees. The Board also promulgates rules and regulations governing employee’s rights and relations. Any aggrieved employee has the right to appeal an adverse decision of the Board pursuant to Title 5, Section 1421 et seq., Virgin Islands Code. The Board also approves the annual budget for the Office.

Duties and Responsibilities

When representing an indigent client in a criminal proceeding before the Superior Court, the Public Defender shall counsel and defend the client at every stage of the proceedings, and at any appeals or other remedies before or after conviction that is considered to be in the interest of justice.

Each Public Defender must devote his full time to the discharge of his/her duties and cannot directly, or indirectly, engage in the private practice of law. Additionally, he/she will not directly or indirectly refer any civil or criminal litigation to any particular lawyer or lawyers. Moreover, he/she is prohibited from directly or indirectly recommending or suggesting to any person, the employment of a particular lawyer or lawyers to counsel, conduct, defend or prosecute any legal matter or litigation when such an action would conflict with his/her duties as Public Defender.