What we do

We advise our clients, empower them to make decisions, and advocate on their behalf in court. Each client will have access to a team of professionals, including lawyers, investigators, mitigation specialists, paralegals, administrative assistants and law clerks, all of whom will work together to provide excellent client-centered representation.

When you work with us, you can expect knowledgeable staff, respectful treatment, and strategic advocacy. We will listen to you and together we will develop a plan to defend your case.   

Core values

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Commitment to clients

We believe in client-centered representation. We actively listen to understand our clients’ goals, and we work in partnership with our clients to address their specific legal needs. We counsel our clients about their options, empower their decision-making, and advocate on their behalf in court.

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Innovative

We will utilize research and data to strategically litigate the rights of our clients. Our team approach results in creative, holistic representation and in the effective use of technology to advance our client’s interests.

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High quality

Our highly trained staff of lawyers, investigators, mitigation specialists, paralegals, legal office specialists and law clerks work as a team to provide our clients with excellent representation. We believe that training, educational opportunities, and professional development are critical to maintaining the skill set necessary for our staff to provide the highest quality representation.

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Safeguarding community

By vindicating the constitutional rights of indigent clients, we safeguard the rights of every member of our community. When we demand just and equitable treatment for everyone, we enhance the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system in Hennepin County.

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Professionalism

We believe in a professional office environment, respectful of both our colleagues and our clients. In court, we are client-centered advocates highly regarded for the skills with which we represent our clients.

Help for clients and community

If you're in the criminal justice system and can't afford an attorney, the Public Defender's office can represent you. We help adults and juveniles accused of criminal offenses, and parents and children involved in child protection cases.

How do I apply for a public defender?

You will complete an application for a Public Defender at your first appearance in court. If you meet the income guidelines, the judge will appoint a public defender to represent you.

Who is my Public Defender?

The Office of the Public Defender assigns lawyers to every first appearance courtroom. Once the court has found you eligible, your public defender will meet with you to discuss your case.

How do I get to the Public Defender's Office?

If you are meeting with your lawyer for an adult criminal case (felony or Minneapolis misdemeanor) please go to our 14th floor reception area at 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 1400, Minneapolis, MN 55415. Our phone number is 612-348-7530.

If you are meeting with your lawyer for a juvenile delinquency or child protection please go to our 10th floor reception area at the Human Services Building (HSB) 525 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415. Our phone number is 612-348-7530.

How do I get to Adult Court?

For adult criminal cases, including suburban misdemeanor charges, all court locations and instructions on how to find a courtroom are available on line. Our suburban public defenders have offices located in the suburban courthouses. If you have questions about where to go, please call the Public Defender’s Office 612-348-7530

How do I get to Juvenile Court?

For juvenile court all court locations and instructions on how to find a courtroom are available on line. If you are unsure or have questions about your case please call the Public Defender’s Office 612-348-7530.

When is my next court date?

Minnesota State Court provides on line access Court calendars. You may search by your name or case number. If you are unsure or have questions about your case please call the Public Defender’s Office 612-348-7530.

know your rights

You have rights

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.  Read more for best practices for exercising your rights safely, tips to reduce exposure to suspicion (not legal advice).

Learn about your rights
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The First 24

Unsure what to do for a loved one that has been arrested? Use this link to find important information that you can use within the first 24 hours after an arrest. Is your loved one in jail? How much is bail? When is the first court appearance? Who do you call if you have concerns about your loved one’s health? Get this information and more by following this link. There are actions you can take before your loved one meets his or her public defender.

Learn what you can do

"Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

News

Hennepin Public Defender News

Hennepin Co. public defenders try technology to keep clients from missing court dates

Read the article
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Public defender accuses prosecutors of withholding information in state trooper investigation

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has now dropped charges in three cases where Minnesota State Trooper Albert Kuehne was a key witness.

Read the article
Image of a gavel in front of an American flag

Critics say Minnesota prosecutors fail to hold police accountable

Defense attorneys and reform advocates say a problem in America's criminal justice system enables bad policing.

Read the article

Collaboration

gideons promise

The Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office is proud to work with Gideon’s Promise to improve public defender training, to instill strong client-centered values, and to advocate for systemic change.

Learn more about Gideon’s Promise
actor John Cutler with courtroom background
We are proud to partner with actor John Cutler to enhance our communication skills.
Learn more

Join our team

 

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We would like to introduce the new Chief Public Defender, Kassius Benson. His term begins January 1, 2021.

 

Kassius worked in the Fourth District office from 1996 -1997 and 2000 through 2007. In 2002, he changed status from full-time to part-time and began private practice. Additionally, Kassius was an Associate Attorney at Delaney & Associates in Bethesda, MD from 1999 – 2000 and a Staff Attorney at Public Defender Service (PDS) in Washington, D.C. from 1997 - 1999.

Kassius received his JD from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1996 and his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University. He graduated with Distinction as a member of the Honors Program in 1993.

Kassius is admitted to practice in the following jurisdictions:

United States Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin

United States District Court for the District of Minnesota

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Superior Court of the District of Columbia

State of Minnesota

United States District Court for District of Colorado

Kassius is a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist - Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) – and was selected to the Minnesota Super Lawyers listing featuring the top 5% of attorneys in the state of Minnesota.

Kassius is a Board member of PICA / Head Start – Minneapolis, MN and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Minneapolis. He was the former Board President of Minnesota Freedom Fund from 2017 – February 2019.

 

Job opportunities

Hennepin County Public Defender's Office job openings 

Managing Attorney

Assistant Public Defender

State of Minnesota Public Defender's Office job openings

View all job openings for the State of Minnesota Public Defender's Office

 

 

Staff highlights

Portrait of Shira Burton

Shira Burton

Shira Burton joined the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office in 2014. Born and raised in South Minneapolis, Shira graduated from New York University Law School, where she was a fellow in the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program and an executive editor of the NYU Review of Law & Social Change. In law school, Shira also chaired NYU Law’s homelessness advocacy student group, participated in the LGBT Rights Clinic, and spent her summers working advocating for parents in child neglect and abuse cases with the Brooklyn Family Defense Project (now Brooklyn Defender Services-FDP) and representing low-income tenants in eviction proceedings with the Legal Aid Society-Civil Division. Prior to law school, Shira worked as a paralegal with Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP in New York, NY, a small plaintiffs’ firm specializing in employment, civil rights, and consumer protection law. Shira earned a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Columbia College in New York, NY, where she majored in Women’s and Gender Studies and concentrated in Psychology. In her free time, Shira sits on the boards of the ACLU of MN and the Artaria String Quartet and enjoys knitting and spending time with her family.

About the office

Holistic representation

In 2009, the United State Supreme Court ruled, in the Padilla case, that criminal defense lawyers must advise their clients about the potential immigration consequences resulting from criminal convictions. We have a full time immigration lawyer who works in partnership with our staff to help educate prosecutors, judges, and our clients about how the immigration system works. We use interpreters, if necessary, to make sure that our clients understand everything they need to know to make an intelligent decision. 

Right to counsel

In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon was tried and convicted in the state of Florida of breaking into a pool hall and stealing change and some bottles of beer. The judge sentenced Gideon to five years in prison. Gideon, who was too poor to pay for a lawyer, was forced to defend himself at trial. From prison, he sent a handwritten petition to the United States Supreme Court asking the justices to hear his claim that Florida had violated his constitutional right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. In 1963, a unanimous Supreme Court held that Gideon’s rights were violated and that he had a right to a new trial with court appointed counsel to represent him. After his lawyer brought out the many inconsistencies in the state’s eyewitness’s story, the jury found Gideon not guilty in less than an hour. 

Of the case, Robert Kennedy said, “If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in prison with a pencil and paper to write a letter to the Supreme Court; and if the Supreme Court had not taken the trouble to look at the merits in that one crude petition among all the bundles of mail it must receive every day, the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter; the court did look into his case; he was retried with the help of competent defense counsel; found not guilty and released from prison after two years of punishment for a crime he did not commit. And the whole course of legal history has been changed.”

The Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office is entrusted with the legacy of Clarence Earl Gideon, to provide excellent representation for people in our community who cannot afford to hire a private lawyer.  

 

Contact us

612-348-7530

701 4th Ave. S.
Suite 1400
Minneapolis, MN 55415