First Chief Public Defender Appointed for Cleveland and Lincoln Counties
The Superior Court Judges’ Office of Judicial District 27B has announced the appointment of a chief public defender for Cleveland and Lincoln counties. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Forrest D. Bridges has appointed Lydia A. Hoza to serve a four year term as the first public defender for Judicial District 27B. The local Bar submitted nominations for the public defender to Judge Bridges from a meeting conducted on December 28, 2021, and North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) Director Judge Andrew T. Heath reviewed that process earlier this week. Under North Carolina law, a public defender for a judicial district is appointed by the senior resident superior court judge from a list of nominations submitted by the district Bar with an opportunity for an additional nomination to be submitted by the NCAOC after consultation with the director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services.
The establishment of the local Public Defender’s Office was authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly in a budget package passed during 2021 and signed by the Governor on November 18, 2021.
“The creation of a public defender for District 27B is a positive step in the administration of justice for all people in our counties,” said Judge Bridges. “We are grateful to the North Carolina General Assembly for the funding of this office, which addresses a severe need, but we are also grateful to our local Bar for having provided this service for many years, often at considerable financial sacrifice and personal hardships, especially during pandemic operations. Our local Bar has a long tradition of providing quality legal representation to indigent clients, but this new office will now provide some long-needed relief from that burden,” Bridges said.
“I believe in professionalism and kindness and grace,” said Hoza in a statement for her vision for the newly created office. “I feel strongly compelled to give back to my community, both in general and the legal community specifically. The best way I can do that is to defend the least among us to the best of my ability, hold the system accountable to the rule of law, and do my utmost, along with my senior colleagues, to raise up a new crop of young lawyers who are mentored not only in trial practice, but also taught how to advocate with conviction in an ethical and professional manner,” said Hoza. “We are all lucky to practice in a wonderful small-town legal community, and our office will reflect these core values.”
Hoza is a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law and has worked for the past nine years as an assistant district attorney in Lincoln County. Prior to her experience as a prosecutor, she worked as a civil and criminal litigator with the firm of Deaton and Biggers in Shelby after her admission to the Bar in 1998.
Hoza will assume office as chief public defender on February 1, 2022. She will be responsible for hiring and supervising a staff of 13 attorneys and seven clerical and support staff. The public defender will have offices in both Cleveland and Lincoln counties. Office address information is as follows:
Office of the Public Defender – Cleveland County
315-B Patton Drive
Shelby, NC 28150
Office of the Public Defender – Lincoln County
206 Gamble Drive
Lincolnton, NC 28092
About the Public Defender
The addition of this new Public Defender Office for Cleveland and Lincoln Counties means that North Carolina now has a total of 18 Public Defender Offices, serving a total 37 counties in the state. Public defenders provide legal representation at state expense for persons who cannot afford to hire private counsel but are entitled to counsel under constitutional or statutory authority in cases ranging from criminal charges to civil commitment, juvenile proceedings, or loss of parental rights. In counties not served by a public defender, the courts rely on local attorneys who volunteer to provide these services at a specified hourly rate that is often considerably lower than customary rates for most private attorneys.