The Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Northern & Southern Districts of Iowa was created in 1993 by the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 (18 U.S.C. Section 3006).
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to the assistance of counsel for the accused in criminal cases. The Federal Public Defender's Office represents only persons charged in federal court who cannot afford to hire counsel.
The Federal Public Defender is appointed to a four-year term by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Federal Public Defender appoints as many assistant federal defenders and other personnel as the U.S. Court of Appeals and Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts approve.
The Federal Public Defender Office for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa began its operations on December 27, 1993. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals selected Paul A. Zoss as the state’s first federal defender. The Federal Defender Offices in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids opened in 1994. Staffed offices in Sioux City and Davenport followed in 1998. Paul Papak and Nicholas Drees served as the second and third federal defenders, respectively. James Whalen served as federal defender from April 16, 2012 until his retirement in May 2020. Brad Hansen was appointed federal defender on February 1, 2021.
The federal defender office’s staff of 34 includes 14 assistant defenders. The office’s lawyers represent clients charged with a wide variety of crimes in federal court. The most common charges involve drugs, firearms, fraud, or child pornography.