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Wisconsin Public Defender Board names new state Public Defender

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 17, 2024//

Jennifer Bias submitted photo

Wisconsin Public Defender Board names new state Public Defender

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//June 17, 2024//

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On Friday in Madison, the State Public Defender Board selected Jennifer Bias as the next State Public Defender.

“Jennifer will be a tremendous leader as State Public Defender. Her experience as an attorney and manager as well as her dedication to the mission of the Public Defender’s office will serve the clients, staff, legal system, and citizens of Wisconsin well,” noted SPD Board Chair Ellen Thorn.

Public Defender Bias has worked as an attorney, manager, and division director in the SPD Trial Division of the SPD. She has, and continues to, represent clients in nearly every type of case and every county throughout the state.

In 2009, Bias became Deputy Trial Division Director and has served as Trial Division Director since 2015.

In addition to her work as an SPD attorney, Bias previously served on the Pardon Advisory Board, the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission, the Commission to Reduce Racial Disparity in the Wisconsin Criminal Justice System and the subsequent Oversight Commission, and the Governor’s Task Force on Racial Profiling. Jennifer served on a number of other boards including the Board of Governors for the Racine County Bar Association, Good Samaritan Board, and the Junior League Advisory Board.

Bias received her law degree from the University of Iowa and an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville.

In recognition of her work, Bias has received multiple awards, most recently the Kutak-Dodds Defender Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in 2020. Since 1989, the Kutak-Dodds Prizes have been awarded to attorneys who have significantly contributed to the human dignity and quality of life of individuals unable to afford legal representation.

“I am grateful to the SPD Board for this opportunity to serve in what I consider to be a pivotal role in the criminal legal system. I’m honored by the trust and confidence placed in me by the SPD Board and look forward to leading the Public Defender’s office forward in pursuit of guaranteeing the 6th amendment right to counsel in Wisconsin,” said Bias.

The State Public Defender provides trial and appellate representation for financially eligible individuals charged with a crime and in certain civil proceedings.

Annually, it makes more than 100,000 appointments statewide.

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