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Public Defender

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About the Aurora Public Defender

In 1989, the Aurora Public Defender's Office was established by City Council with Tracey Dawson as the first Chief Public Defender and Scott Baraway and Rebecca Gleason as the first two Deputy Public Defenders. After the new Municipal Court was opened to the public in January of 1990, the Public Defender's office officially began serving indigent clients in the city of Aurora, Colorado.

Since the opening in 1989 to present day, indigent representation has been in the hands of eight Chief Public Defenders with two out of the eight acting as one in an interim arrangement. The Chief Public Defender lineage begins with Tracey Dawson and continues on to Kristopher Colley, Thomas Farrow, Laurie Cole, Jose Martinez, Tasha Steward and Rene Cooper acting as one, and presently Douglas Wilson. The Aurora Public Defender is now home to 10 attorneys and 1.5 grant funded attorney positions who are dedicated to representing indigent clients and providing substantial legal counsel.

Public Defender Commission 

To ensure quality legal counsel and representation, the Public Defender's Commission was established in May of 1992. The Public Defender's office is formerly governed by the Public Defender's Commission, which ensures that indigent clients are represented in accordance to its strict guidelines.

A.M.C. Section 50-166

"The municipal public defender commission through its ability to appoint and discharge the public defender and his or her assistant, shall ensure that indigent clients are represented independently of any political consideration or private interests, provide legal services to indigent persons accused of violation of municipal ordinances that are commensurate with those available to non indigents, and conduct the office in accordance with the Colorado Code of Professional Standards relating to the administration of criminal justice, the defense function."

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Douglas K. Wilson
Chief Public Defender

Doug has spent his career as a criminal defense attorney serving the poor in Colorado. In 1970, the shootings at Kent State were a call to action for him to fight for social justice and human rights. Growing up in Ohio, that was a defining moment for him as he chose to work for people accused of crimes who could not afford counsel. He has dedicated much of his legal career to fighting the death penalty and has represented the accused in capital cases across the state. Doug’s passion and conviction to help and represent people who suffer from mental health conditions has also defined his career.

On November 1, 2006, Doug was appointed as the sixth Colorado State Public Defender, where he was responsible for leading a state-wide public defender system with a $90 million-dollar budget, over 800 employees and 170,000 active cases. He was honored by the Public Defender System on two occasions for his steadfast service to his clients and his ongoing work in opposition to the death penalty. He received the prestigious David F. Vela Award in 1998 and was chosen as Attorney of the Year in 2001. In 1999, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar honored him with the Jonathan Olom Award. Doug retired July 31, 2018 after leading the Colorado system for 12 years.

On January 8, 2020, Doug was appointed as the Chief Public Defender for the City of Aurora, CO. Where he is responsible for leading a team of 16 in the representation of indigent clients accused of municipal ordinance violations.

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Elizabeth D. Cadiz
Chief Deputy Public Defender

Elizabeth began her career as a criminal defense attorney in 2008 in Cincinnati, OH after graduating from Salmon P. Chase College of Law in Northern Kentucky University. As a private criminal defense attorney and public defender, she has been a dedicated litigator fighting for the most vulnerable members of our society. She is passionate about ensuring that indigent clients are afforded the highest level of representation as has been promised by the State and Federal Constitutions. Her commitment to protecting the Bill of Rights has not wavered since she joined the office as a Deputy Public Defender in 2012. Since that time, she has tried over 100 jury trials, litigated countless motions and several appeals; many of which resulted in victories for her clients. In 2017, she became Chief Deputy and continues to work hard for her clients while supervising and mentoring a team of Deputy Public Defenders and staff. She believes that the work of a Public Defender is the most critical of all parties involved in the Court system because the individuals without financial means are most often the ones unjustly punished. As a Public Defender she is devoted to giving them the voice and the tools that they need to reach the best possible outcome. Elizabeth, who is married with two children, has dedicated her professional career to not only representing poor people accused of crimes, but strives to ensure that there is a fair administration of justice in the City of Aurora.

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Tasha A. Steward
Chief Deputy Public Defender

When  I was 15 I worked for tips as a bagger at a grocery store. I had a friend that also worked there. She was being abused in many ways at home, but I didn’t know that. Next to the grocery store, there was a retail store that housed a branch of the military bank. I had a savings account there to save my tips. One day, my friend asked me to cash a check for $75 for her. She said she did not have her ID. I went over and cashed the check. That check had been stolen by my friend so that she could buy a bus ticket to safer family. I was contacted by the military police asking about the check (this is when I found out it was stolen). I was asked to come down with my parent and talk about the check. I did. I explained what happened and felt sad that my friend didn’t just ask me or my family for the money. The officer I spoke to began to show up at my job as a bagger. He would pull me aside and tell me that he wanted to talk to me again. He needed my parent there. He contacted my dad while he was doing his military duties to talk about this check. He came to my high school. He didn’t say anything, but would just be there to show his face. I ended up talking to this guy with my dad four times. Each time, I explained what happened and answered all questions. At the last meeting, I told the officer that it seemed like he wanted me to lie because he asked the same questions over and over again and he was actively trying to intimidate me (I didn’t use those words because I was a young teen). That was the last time I saw the cop. It made me hate to see cops coming. What makes this more heartbreaking is that my dad paid that check and all associated fees so that the police would leave me alone. I didn’t find that out until years later. My dad felt that I was so affected by these interactions with the police that he paid to make them go away. That’s why I became a public defender. 

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Reyna N. Lopez
Executive Specialist

Born and raised in Texas, Ms. Lopez moved to Colorado in September of 2002 and began her career with the City of Aurora, Public Defender’s Office in November of 2002. A single mother who always had a passion for helping others, found her calling working in the Public Defender’s Office. Her career began as an office assistant for the Public Defender’s Office and while working there she realized this was it, this was where she needed and wanted to be. She started night classes at Community College of Aurora majoring in criminal justice while working her full-time job and tending to her children and home. Once she completed her education, she continued to work hard and moved her way up to an Executive Office Assistant position. She now manages the office and leads the administrative staff. Ms. Lopez, over the years, has dedicated her time, passion, and commitment to helping those in her community as well as assisting her office staff to do their best at advocating, protecting, and defending those in need of a voice.

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