HARRIS COUNTY– (October 13, 2020) – The Harris County Commissioners Court took a giant step toward criminal justice reform today in naming a director for the county’s first-ever Managed Assigned Counsel (MAC) program.
After several months of extensive searching both nationally and locally, the Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to approve Kenneth Hardin to lead its efforts in establishing a defense delivery to achieve the benefits of public defender system independence, caseload controls, enhanced training, mentoring, and monitoring and performance while working with members of the private bar.
“Today marks an important milestone towards our goal of achieving a truly just criminal legal system in Harris County,” said Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. For too long, people who could not afford legal counsel did not have an equal shot at justice in our legal system. This program will administer and promote quality, ethical, and effective criminal defense services to indigent adults facing a loss of liberty.”
Hardin, a Louisiana native, was the leading candidate among a deep pool of applicants. “His work ethic, passion for public defense, and a demonstrated record of pursuing equal justice for all separated him from other applicants,” stated Jim Bethke, Director, Justice Administration Department and member of hiring committee.
Hardin earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Louisiana State University and a law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He served as both a staff attorney and supervising attorney at the Orleans Public Defender’s Office in New Orleans, Louisiana before joining the Harris County Public Defenders in 2019. Hardin not only has extensive experience in handling felony and misdemeanor cases but also serves as faculty for the Gideon’s Promise and Harvard Trial Advocacy Programs.
Harris County was awarded a $2.2 million grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) to establish this office which is charged with appointing private attorneys to indigent defendants.
“I’m thrilled Harris County Misdemeanor Courts have taken this step to create a conflict-free appointment system, and Kenneth Hardin is the perfect person to lead us in that effort,” said Judge Genesis Draper. “His demonstrated commitment to excellence in indigent defense will be a great support and resource to our private bar as well as the people they serve. He was thoroughly vetted by not only judges and lawyers, but members of our community as well. This is what collaborative criminal justice reform looks like, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.”
“I am humbled and appreciate the necessity of this endeavor as both a career public defender and coming from a community that has had many people who look like me processed in the system,” said the newly appointed Hardin. “I look forward to diligently serving our clients, attorneys, and county through an office that will be committed to high quality representation, client-centered principles, and care for our community.”
Hardin is scheduled to officially assume his duties as Executive Director in late November.