Profile: mark.stephens

Mark Stephens was elected Public Defender for the Sixth Judicial District for an eight-year term in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1990, and was re-elected in 1998 and 2006. He practiced law in the private sector for ten years before committing to public defense services. He has dedicated his public defender career to building the Knox County Public Defender's Community Law Office (CLO) into a national model of client-centered, holistic representation. He has previously served as President of the Tennessee District Public Defender's Conference and Chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court's Indigent Defense Commission. Nationally, he serves on the Board of Gideonís Promise (formerly the Southern Public Defender Training Center). In September 2013, he assumed the role of vice-chair of the National Association for Public Defense. He is a member of the American Bar Association and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. On the state level, Mr. Stephens is a member of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Tennessee Bar Association. On a local level Mr. Stephens is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association and the Knoxville Defense Lawyers Association. Since 2004, he has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he teaches Trial Advocacy.




On March 18, 2017 - the 54th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainright decision - NAPD published its Foundational Principleswhich are recommended to NAPD members and other persons and organizations interested in advancing the cause of equal justice for accused persons.  


On March 2, 2017, NAPD released its Statement on Reducing Demand For Public Defense: Alternatives to Traditional Prosecution Can Reduce Defender Workload, Save Money, and Reduce RecidivismThere are more than 2 million people in jail and prison in the United States. This is a four-fold increase since 1980. This increase and the racial disproportionality among incarcerated people has led to alliances across the political spectrum to address the impact on people and on budgets.  As the new Coalition for Public Safety has put it, “Our country has an ‘overcriminalization’ problem and an ‘overincarceration’ problem — and it’s getting worse." NAPD authored this statement because there is a great opportunity to make transformative changes that can improve justice and save money.  A variety of organizations representing a wide spectrum of political views have joined together to end the systematic problem of overcriminalization and narrow the net of incarceration by reforming criminal codes.