Ernie Lewis

Executive Director, National Association for Public Defenders
Work PO Box 211 Frankfort KY 40601 TPI Attendance: July, 1985
Photo of Ernie Lewis


Ernie Lewis received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University in 1969, a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University in 1973, and a Juris Doctoris (J.D.) from Washington University in 1977. He was a VISTA Volunteer in Minnesota in 1970. He was with the Department of Public Advocacy from 1976 until 2008 in several different capacities, including appellate lawyer, local assistance branch manager, directing attorney of the Richmond Trial Office, and Regional Manager for the Central Kentucky Region.

He was appointed Kentucky Public Advocate in 1996, overseeing the statewide public defender system, and served in that capacity until 2008 when he retired from state government. From 1985 until 2015, he taught at the National College of Criminal Defense located at Mercer Law School in Macon, Georgia. He served for two years as Chair of the American Council of Chief Defenders from 2006-2007. He has worked on indigent defense issues with various groups in Georgia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and Louisiana. In 2000, he was named Outstanding Lawyer by the Kentucky Bar Association. In 2007, he was given the Champion of Indigent Defense Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In 2008, he was given the Chief Justice’s Special Service Award. He received the Department of Public Advocacy’s Professionalism and Excellence Award in 2003 and the Nelson Mandela Award in 2009.

He served as Legislative Agent for the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers from 2009-2015. He was one of the founding board members of KACDL and served as the President of KACDL in 2016. He is active in teaching public defenders and consulting. Since January of 2014, he has been serving as the Executive Director of the National Association for Public Defense, an organization with over 22,000 members, including 130+ organizations.