Ernie Lewis

(Retired) Kentucky Public Advocate

KY Department of Public Advocacy

509 Marshall Court
Frankfort, KY 40601

(502) 545-3142 | Fax:


Ernie Lewis grew up in Missouri, the son of a Baptist minister and a school teacher.  He has a son, Ben, who is a public defender with the Charleston Public Defender's Office in Charleston, South Carolina.  He also has a daughter, Rachel, who has attended Kenyon College, the University of Chicago, spent a year as an Americorps volunteer, and is now working for Organizing for America.  She hopes to resume her studies in 2009.  He also has two step-children, Brendan Norman, an investment banker in San Francisco, and Sarah Norman, who just graduated from Beloit College.  He lives in Frankfort, Kentucky, with his wife Margaret Townsley who is the International Marketing Director with the Enterprise Division of Kentucky Educational Television.  Ernie received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University in 1969, a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt University in 1973, and his Juris Doctoris from Washington University in 1977.  He was a VISTA Volunteer in Minnesota.  He was with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy since 1977 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.  Since 1985, he has been on the faculty of the National College of Criminal Defense located at Mercer Law School in Macon, Georgia.  He is on the faculty of the National Defender Leadership Institute as well as the NLADA’s Nuts and Bolts of Defender Leadership.  He served for two years as Chair of the American Council of Chief Defenders during 2006-2007.  He was named Kentucky Public Advocate by Governor Patton in October of 1996, and again in 2000.  He was appointed to a third term by Governor Fletcher in 2004.  He has served as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the Department of Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, the Board of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Board of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, the Governor’s Criminal Justice Response Team, the Kentucky Criminal Justice Council, the Kentucky Corrections Commission, the Chair of the Corrections/Committee Based Sanctions Committee of the Criminal Justice Council, the Governor’s Drug Summit, the Advisory Board of the International Centre for Healing and the Law in Kalamazoo, Michigan from 2003-2006, and is presently on the Board of the Southern Public Defender Training Center.  He has worked on indigent defense issues with various groups in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, 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 retired as Public Advocate in September of 2008.  He is now active in teaching public defenders, consulting, and representing the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers before the Kentucky General Assembly.

Phyllis E Mann - Wed, 01/20/2010 - 15:39