Office of the Territorial Public Defender, U.S. Virgin Islands

// About OTPD


The Office of the Territorial Public Defender (OTPD) was established in 1973 under Title 5, Chapter 302, § 3520 et seq., for the purpose of representing appointed indigent criminal defendants that appear before the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Supreme Court. We are a semi-autonomous agency governed by the Public Defender Administration Board (Board).

The OTPD is comprised of two district offices, one on St. Croix and the other on St. Thomas representing the St. Thomas/St. John District. Each Division of the Office is comprised of attorneys that are licensed to practice law in the Virgin Islands or specially admitted to practice law in the Virgin Islands on behalf of the Office of the Public Defender. The support staff includes secretarial, investigative, administrative, and clerical personnel as determined necessary by the Chief Public Defender within the scope of legislative appropriations. All employees of the OTPD are unclassified and are members of the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS).

Public Defender Administration Board

The Board consists of five (5) persons; the President of the Virgin Islands Bar Association or his designee; two (2) are appointees of the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, one (1) whom must be a resident of the St. Thomas/St. John District and one (1) a resident of the St. Croix District; one (1) appointee of the Governor of the Virgin Islands and one (1) appointee of the President of the Virgin Islands Legislature. The terms of the members appointed by the Governor and the President of the VI Legislature are the same as the terms of the persons who appoint them. Of the two (2) members appointed by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, one (1) shall serve for three (3) years and one (1) shall serve for two (2) years. A vacancy on the Board is filled for the un-expired term of the vacant member.

The Board hires, and is authorized to terminate, all personnel and staff for the Office upon the recommendation of the Chief Public Defender. The Chief Public Defender is appointed for terms of three years and may be terminated only for cause during his/her term. The Board hears and decides on all complaints and grievances of employees. The Board also promulgates rules and regulations governing employee’s rights and relations. Any aggrieved employee has the right to appeal an adverse decision of the Board pursuant to Title 5, Section 1421 et seq., Virgin Islands Code. The Board also approves the annual budget for the Office.

Duties and Responsibilities

When representing an indigent client in a criminal proceeding before the Superior Court, the Public Defender shall counsel and defend the client at every stage of the proceedings, and at any appeals or other remedies before or after conviction that is considered to be in the interest of justice.

Each Public Defender must devote his full time to the discharge of his/her duties and cannot directly, or indirectly, engage in the private practice of law. Additionally, he/she will not directly or indirectly refer any civil or criminal litigation to any particular lawyer or lawyers. Moreover, he/she is prohibited from directly or indirectly recommending or suggesting to any person, the employment of a particular lawyer or lawyers to counsel, conduct, defend or prosecute any legal matter or litigation when such an action would conflict with his/her duties as Public Defender.