The Public Defense Services Commission (PDSC) is an independent agency in the judicial branch. Its primary responsibility is securing public defense counsel and required legal services for eligible individuals in Oregon’s circuit and appellate courts. The agency was created by SB 145 (2001).
The chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court appoints nine commissioners to four-year terms. The commission’s function is to provide oversight over the Office of Public Defense Services (OPDS). Its charge is to establish “a public defense system that ensures the provision of public defense consistent with the Oregon Constitution, the United States Constitution and Oregon and national standards of justice.” To carry out this charge, the commission appoints an executive director to lead OPDS.
OPDS has 113 positions over five divisions: Executive, Administrative Services, Trial, Appellate, and Compliance, Audit, and Performance (CAP). The Executive Division contains the agency’s core leadership team. The Administrative Services Division includes Budget and Finance, Human Resources and Information Technology. The Trial Division relies upon contracts and hourly fee agreements to ensure eligible individuals receive legal services in Oregon’s circuit courts. The Appellate Division employs attorneys to provide legal representation to eligible individuals in Oregon’s appellate courts. The CAP Division both monitors and reports on agency performance.
The majority of the agency’s budget is distributed to external attorney and non-attorneys who provide public defense services pursuant to contract and fee agreements.