Khandelwal will be the Department’s second director since voters approved the Charter amendment creating the position in 2013
The Metropolitan King County Council removed the interim title from Anita Khandelwal, giving its support to her appointment to a four-year term as the King County Public Defender and Director of the Public Defense.
Khandelwal will be the Department’s second director since voters approved the Charter amendment creating the position in 2013. Candidates for the position were evaluated by the King County Public Defense Advisory Board, a citizen panel that also was created by the charter amendment. From candidates recommended by the Advisory Board, Khandelwal was selected by the County Executive for appointment.
Khandelwal joined the Department in 2015 and prior to being named interim director this summer, served as the Department’s Deputy Director of Law and Policy. A graduate of Yale Law School, Khandelwal has worked as a public defender on a state and federal level for a decade.
Khandelwal will direct an agency of more than 400 employees, including 225 attorneys, working in locations in both Seattle and Kent. The Department of Public Defense provides legal advocacy to people who cannot afford an attorney and are facing either criminal charges or certain other legal matters, such as juvenile dependency, civil commitment, or civil contempt proceedings.
“I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve our community as the director of the Department of Public Defense. I believe deeply in our mission, I hold the staff in high regard, and I have profound respect for the community of partners who are working with us to improve the criminal legal system. I look forward to what we’re able to achieve, on behalf of our clients and the broader community, over the next four years.”
“I am pleased to confirm Anita Khandelwal’s appointment as the Director of King County Public Defense. Her experience as a public defender, the respect she’s earned from her peers and her commitment to justice make her a model candidate for the role.”
--Council Chair Joe McDermott
“Representing and advocating for the most vulnerable is an essential role of King County government. I look forward to collaborating with Anita Khandelwal as she brings her experience and strong advocacy to leading the 400 professionals at the Department of Public Defense who provide essential legal services guaranteed by the US Constitution.”
--Council Vice Chair Claudia Balducci
“Anita Khandelwal’s confirmation as our new Public Defender is a testament to King County’s commitment to equity and social justice. She will be a powerful voice for the disenfranchised, ensuring their constitutional rights are protected. She will be a trusted partner in helping us bend the arc of our justice system toward greater equity. And she will be the leader we need for the 450 county employees in our nationally-recognized department of public defense. I look forward to working with her in the coming years.”
--Councilmember Rod Dembowski, chair, Committee of the Whole
“Anita Khandelwal has made it clear the clients who come through the Public Defender Office will be her primary focus, even when it put her at odds with public opinion. The public defender is a lifeline for the underserved and impoverished facing the criminal justice system. I know Anita will be a strong advocate for these communities.”
--Councilmember Larry Gossett
“I am very pleased to join the majority of my colleagues in confirming Anita Khandelwal as the Director of Public Defense. Anita has the experience as well as a deep comprehension of the law and has been a passionate advocate for the clients her department serves. I have no doubt she will do an exceptional job.”
--Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles