NATIONAL CRIMINAL DEFENSE COLLEGE FACULTY
Training Director, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy
Melanie Foote is the Education & Strategic Planning Branch Manager for the Department of Public Advocacy. Melanie joined the Education and Strategic Planning Branch of the Department of Public Advocacy in 2015. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego and her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. She is a member of New York and Kentucky State Bars, and has been practicing in Kentucky since she joined the Adult Post Conviction Branch of the Department of Public Advocacy in 2007. While in the Post-Conviction,
Melanie represented adult clients on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, mistake in the proceedings, and claims of actual innocence. In that role, she secured the release and exoneration of Mr. Jason Girts, who had been wrongfully convicted based on false statements made by the child complaining witness.
In 2009, she joined the Kentucky Innocence Project to work exclusively on DNA based claims of actual innocence, and assisted several clients to prove their innocence through DNA testing. At the completion of the DNA Grant in 2010, she began representing clients in district, circuit, juvenile and family court in the Elizabethtown and LaGrange Trial Offices. While at the Elizabethtown Trial Office, Melanie had the pleasure of representing Mr. Jose Padilla after his case was vacated and remanded by the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Padilla’s charges were ultimately dismissed after a period of deferred prosecution, allowing him to remain in the United States. In 2017, Melanie secured a new trial for and the release of Mr. Norman Graham, who was wrongfully convicted of a 1980 rape and murder. All charges were dropped and Mr. Graham was fully exonerated in December of 2019.
Melanie regularly trains public defender litigators in Kentucky and nationwide. She also assists with community education on issues related to public defense.
Recent Teaching History
Executive Director, National Association for Public Defenders
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.
Training Director, National Association for Public Defense
Jeff Sherr is the Training Director for the National Association for Public Defense producing hundreds of webinars for public defense professionals across the nation. Prior to that he was the Manager of the Education and Strategic Planning Branch of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. Jeff started with the DPA since 1994, starting first as a law clerk, then working with the Juvenile Post Dispositional Unit, then in the trial division with the Stanford Field Office, and now in Frankfort with the education staff. Jeff graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1995. Jeff has been a faculty member for Gideon’s Promise, the National Criminal Defense College, Clarence Darrow Death Penalty College, Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop, Bronx Defender Academy, and other state litigation institutes.
In addition to regularly training public defender litigators and trainers, Jeff trains public defender leaders nationally and for many individual defender states and offices. Jeff also has an extensive background in theatre having studied with the National Shakespeare Conservatory and the University of Kansas. Jeff performs regularly with Central Kentucky Improv in Lexington, Kentucky and at Improv Festivals across the country.
Recent Teaching History