Matthew B. Toro, Public Defender
The administrative offices of the Public Defender are located at 160 Pine Street, in Providence. The Public Defender, Deputy Public Defender, Executive Assistant, Personnel Coordinator and Secretary to Administration comprise the upper management unit of the Office of the Public Defender. All personnel, financial and operations functions are centralized.
Criminal Trial Division
Michelle Alves, Deputy Chief
Collin Geiselman, Deputy Chief
Jason Ollman, Deputy Chief
The largest core of the Public Defender attorney staff is its trial division, which zealously represents financially eligible defendants in prosecutions of misdemeanors and felonies and in cases alleging violations of probation. Trial division attorneys are located throughout the state, with the largest concentration in the main office at 160 Pine Street, in Providence. Generally, criminal trial division attorneys serving particular courthouses throughout the state have offices in those courthouses. The trial division staff serving Providence County courts is comprised of three units: the felony unit, the district court unit, and the superior court violation-of-probation unit.
Juvenile Trial Division
Anne M. C. Travers, Chief Juvenile Trial Division
The juvenile division of the Office of the Public Defender consists of attorneys who specialize exclusively in juvenile wayward and delinquency proceedings. All juvenile attorneys have offices at 160 Pine Street, Providence, from which they represent clients in all of the Family Courts across the state. Parents who have the financial means are expected to retain counsel to represent their children; in cases where juveniles are emancipated, or estranged from their families, or where the petition is filed by a parent, the juvenile's financial eligibility is determined based upon his or her own assets. Public Defender attorneys do not generally represent juveniles in municipal courts or in school-based truancy calendars.
Parental Rights Division
Brian LeClair, Chief Parental Rights Division
Parental rights attorneys, who specialize in abuse, neglect, dependency, and termination proceedings, represent parents in jeopardy of losing custody of their children to the state. All parental rights attorneys have offices at 160 Pine Street, Providence, from which they represent clients in all of the Family Courts across the state. Representation is provided by the parental rights division from arraignment through the conclusion of all proceedings, including any reviews which occur until all children involved reach the age of majority or the Family Court relinquishes jurisdiction.
Kara Maguire, Chief Appellate Division
The appellate division handles all appeals to the Rhode Island Supreme Court of cases tried by public defender attorneys as well as those cases referred by the private bar or the lower courts on behalf of indigent appellants. While criminal appeals are the bulk of the division's work, appellate attorneys represent clients in juvenile and parental rights matters as well. The appellate division is located at 160 Pine Street, in Providence.
Kerin Hagan, Social Services Casework Supervisor
The Social Services Unit provides a critical piece to the holistic representation practiced by the Rhode Island Public Defender by assisting clients who have mental health, substance abuse and/or medical issues in order to enable effective and comprehensive representation and facilitate dispositions of cases that serve the client's interests. This work includes clinical assessment, referral to services in the community and case management components. Additionally, RIPD social workers prepare mitigation reports in serious cases, particularly capital offenses. Social services are provided only for those individuals represented by the Rhode Island Public Defender.
The keystone of holistic defense is the relationship between the Rhode Island Public Defender and its community partners. The RIPD works with partner organizations to make communities safer and to effect positive change in our client's lives and in our communities. The RIPD engages its partners and client communities through education, outreach, and resource networks. In addition, the office maintains a strong link between its community partnerships and the office's criminal justice reform legislative work, conducted by our Director of Training/Legislative Initiatives. The RIPD's community partnerships are managed and maintained by the office's Community Outreach Liaison. If you have further questions about the program.
The Rhode Island Public Defender includes as part of its responsibilities advocacy for indigent citizens of the State of Rhode Island on issues affecting the criminal justice system. The Public Defender plays an important role in the criminal justice system, with a bird's eye view of what works in the judicial system and what does not. The Public Defender has a responsibility to do all it can to improve the quality of justice and to ensure fairness and equality in the criminal justice process. To that end, the Public Defender has been an energetic participant in the state legislative arena, opposing proposals that jeopardize the fairness of criminal justice and affirmatively initiating legislation designed to improve the justice system.
William McCoy, Chief Investigator
The Rhode Island Public Defender employs its own staff of investigators who assist attorneys in investigating criminal, juvenile and parental rights cases. Working in concert with RIPD attorneys, RIPD investigators locate and interview witnesses, research and obtain documents, serve subpoenas, and generally assist in other phases of case preparation. Staff investigators become involved with a client's case after arraignment and serve as an instrumental part of the legal team throughout the duration of a client's case, including through trial.
Yudelka Martinez, Intake Coordinator
The Intake division, located at the J. Joseph Garrahy Courthouse, One Dorrance Plaza, Providence, is responsible for interviewing all potential clients referred to the Rhode Island Public Defender. Interviews generally occur in the courthouse where the potential client's case is pending, but any client statewide may be interviewed at the Garrahy Courthouse. Intake interviewers do not determine eligibility, but they take an important first step in the representation process by gathering facts related to both the case and the potential client's financial situation.
Due process requires that parties to court actions be able to fully understand and comprehend the proceedings. In addition, it is important that clients and witnesses be able to fully communicate with attorneys during the preparation of cases for disposition and trials. To meet that obligation, the Rhode Island Public Defender employs two full-time Spanish interpreters. Conversations and courtroom proceedings are translated when clients and/or witnesses do not comfortably communicate in English. When clients and witnesses speak other languages, the Public Defender contracts with outside agencies to provide interpreters in the client's or witnesses's native language for courtroom and outside-court conversations. The Public Defender interpreters have offices at 160 Pine Street, Providence and are available for telephone conversations with Spanish-speaking clients and their families by calling (401) 222-3492.