Rhode Island Public Defender

Our mission is to provide high quality representation to our clients, fulfilling the governmental obligation of effective assistance of counsel, fundamental fairness and due process. Our goal is to provide client-centered advice, holistic representation and zealous advocacy. Our commitment is to treat our clients with dignity, compassion and fairness.
Mary S. McElroy, Public Defender

Criminal Justice Links

Rhode Island Public Defender
160 Pine Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-3492



The Rhode Island Public Defender (RIPD) provides legal representation to those adults and juveniles who are charged with crimes or faced with the possible loss of custody of their children to the state, if they cannot afford to retain private counsel. The RIPD operates exactly like a law firm, except that it is funded by government instead of by client fees. We provide representation in the district, superior, family and supreme courts to those who meet the financial criteria.

We endeavor to represent our clients holistically, providing legal assistance by a team of lawyers, social workers, interpreters and investigators. “Holistic representation” is a client-centered approach that integrates different disciplines into the defense practice; the goal of holistic representation is to improve the client’s disposition for the immediate charges as well as to address some of the underlying issues that may have contributed to the case in the first place. In addition to focusing on the legal basis of the accusations, holistic representation takes advantage of community resources that can help the client in such areas as employment, housing, and shelter.

A team of social workers assesses clients for mental health and substance abuse treatment needs, information which helps clients secure resources in the community and contributes to more meaningful dispositions of criminal cases. In addition, the RIPD’s Community Partnership Program develops, strengthens and maintains the relationship of the RIPD with community organizations and social service agencies for the benefit of RIPD clients.

At its core, though, the RIPD is about providing a zealous, effective, and high-quality defense to those charged with crimes, whether adults or juveniles, and those parents in jeopardy of losing custody of their children to the state through DCYF prosecutions. Staff attorneys, along with a team of in-house investigators, bring their skill and experience to bear in attempting to achieve the best result possible for every client in every case

Representation is provided by lawyers in divisions corresponding to types of cases they handle: the criminal trial division, the juvenile division, the parental rights division, and the appeals division.

Representation is generally provided only in state court, and only in criminal and parental rights cases. We handle no cases involving purely private individuals, such as civil lawsuits or divorces. Other agencies can provide assistance in those and other types of cases.

Copyright © 2013 Rhode Island Public Defender