Niccoya "Nicky" Dobson has been appointed Chief Public Defender to the newly created defender district serving Duplin, Jones, and Sampson counties by the Honorable Judge Henry Stevens IV, Senior Resident Superior Court for Judicial District 4. Dobson’s experience on both sides of the courtroom, building a law practice during the challenges of a global pandemic and practicing across multiple counties makes her uniquely suited for position of chief public defender.
“In my life, there has been no greater call than the call to serve," said Dobson. "When the call came from home, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to help where it is needed most.”
After graduating with honors from North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central School of Law, Dobson served as a public defender in Boston prior to being called to return home to southeastern North Carolina.
With a goal to build a career of service around diverse work experience, she worked as an assistant district attorney in Onslow County where she prosecuted everything from misdemeanor traffic matters to first degree murder. After serving for four years, Dobson became an assistant public defender in New Hanover County, defending clients in district and superior court focusing on high level felonies. As a public defender, she took an active role in training defenders and displayed an aptitude for leadership within the office. Dobson felt called to work within her home community and opened Dobson Legal in 2021, where she worked across Duplin, Sampson, New Hanover, Pender, and Onslow counties representing retained and appointed clients on high level felonies and civil matters.
Despite heavy caseloads throughout her career, Dobson has served on local boards and volunteered. She is an active member of her church, Duplin County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sigma Sorority, Inc., and serves on the boards of Duplin County Education Foundation, James Sprunt Community College, and Good Shepherd of Wilmington.
As a native resident of Duplin County, she is well aware of the challenges facing rural populations. Working as a defense attorney across rural counties in private practice brought to her attention the vast legal deserts in the state where there a few defense attorneys available to represent indigent persons. When Dobson learned the legislature had created a defender district in the area she calls home, she felt called to serve.
About the Public Defender
The addition of this new Public Defender Office for Duplin, Jones, and Sampson counties means that North Carolina now has a total of 18 Public Defender Offices, serving a total of 39 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.