The Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defender's office was organized and incorporated on August 20, 1971, the first full-time public defender program in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Its offices opened for business the following spring, 1972, and its staff attorneys began representing indigent defendants pursuant to court appointments. Later that same year, Governor Wendell Ford, at a ceremony in Louisville, signed into law KRS Chapter 31, which created a statewide public defender system. The Public Defender's office in Louisville Metro continues to function to date as the oldest and largest defender office in the state, and has achieved national acclaim for its advocacy, along with a reputation as a model program for the representation of indigent defendants at trial and on appeal in the state and federal courts. (See "The Defense that Never Rests" in Louisville Magazine, "Fifty Years after Gideon" in ABA Journal, "The History of the Right to Counsel for the Indigent Accused in Kentucky" in the Kentucky Bar Association's Bench & Bar, and "At Liberty's Core: Right to Counsel" in the Lexington Herald-Leader.)

The office operates a mixed caseload/vertical representation system in accordance with the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice (both Providing Defense Services and Defense Function), as well as the ABA's Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System. As such, individual clients are represented by the same attorney throughout all stages of the proceedings from appointment until final disposition of the case.