Indiana’s chief public defender to retire

By Brynna Sentel

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s Chief Public Defender Stephen T. Owens will retire at the end of the year, capping 33 years of service.

“I really believe in what we do,” Owens said of his long tenure.

Stephen T. Owens, Public Defender of Indiana, is retiring after a distinguished career advocating for strong public defense. Supreme Court Staff Photo By Josh Hicks

Owens joined the state public defender’s office in 1986. Just a year later he was named assistant chief deputy of personnel. In June 2011 he was appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court to the top job, an office of 63 public defenders who annually field about 500 requests from inmates to review their cases.

As chief public defender, Owens also advocates for sentence reductions and to improve services for juveniles.

“If there are individuals that need justice on their case we are here to find that,” Owens said. “It’s very important because we don’t want individuals sitting in institutions with sentences too long or convictions wrong or whatever. We want to make sure we find those issues and take care of that.”

During his tenure, the University of Dayton graduate reviewed thousands of cases but it is those he worked alongside with for all those years that will remain in his memory.

“It’s easy to say there are specific cases you would remember but really I think it’s just the people that I’ve worked with throughout the years and how passionate they are about their work and how much they care,” Owens said.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush expressed her appreciation in a press release, saying: “Steve gave a voice to those asking for review of their case and because of his dedication to that step, our system includes fairness for all.”

Owens’ advice for his predecessor is to listen, be communicative, rely on the staff and be open minded.

 “I worked with many accomplished attorneys and staff who were equally committed to representing the rights of indigent defendants,” Owens said. “I am privileged to have dedicated my career to this essential office in Indiana’s justice system.”

 Brynna Sentel is a reporter at, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.

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