A woman smiling and sitting at a desk

Kelli Thompson is pictured in this photo from 2011.

Sept. 1, 2023 – Kelli Thompson, Wisconsin’s State Public Defender for the last 12 years, recently announced that she is stepping down from the agency, effective Oct 9, 2023.

In her announcement, issued by the Wisconsin State Public Defender Office, Thompson said:

It has been a privilege to serve as the Wisconsin State Public Defender. The role of public defender is critical to protecting the rights of clients and the principles of liberty, due process, and the rule of law. From my first job as a staff attorney in Milwaukee through the last 12 years of service as State Public Defender, it has been an honor to serve and provide representation to individuals.”

State Bar of Wisconsin Executive Director Larry J. Martin said Thompson’s departure is a real loss for the state, the public, and the legal community.

“Kelli departs on a high note, having helped lead a successful effort in significantly increasing state funding for our criminal justice system in the recently passed state budget,” Martin said.

“I am personally grateful for her dedicated and tireless service in helping work to ensure a commitment of access to justice for everyone in Wisconsin. Kelli is a great leader in our profession and our state, and I know she will be successful in her future endeavors.”

Thompson, a 1996 graduate of Marquette University Law School, served as the chair of the State Bar’s Board of Governors in FY 2013.

In her announcement, Thompson said “now is the time to hand over the reins to future leaders of the agency.” Deputy State Public Defender Katie York will assume the role of Acting State Public Defender while the Public Defender Board conducts a search to fill the role on a permanent basis.