Toggle menu

Partner W. Kelly Johnson '86 Selected to Serve as Interim Hamilton County Public Defender


CINCINNATI, Ohio (April 10, 2012) – The Hamilton County Public Defender Commission selected W. Kelly Johnson, of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur's Cincinnati office, to serve as the interim Hamilton County Public Defender. Johnson replaces Shelia Kyle-Reno, who resigned effective April 12, 2012 to pursue other opportunities.

Johnson brings more than 25 years of criminal law experience, in both the public and private sectors, to the role. He is a Partner and Chair of Porter Wright's White Collar and Government Investigations Practice Group. Johnson's private practice focuses on white collar crime and civil and criminal forfeiture; he has extensive experience in cases involving fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, environment, and internet crimes.

Prior to joining the Firm, Johnson spent more than a decade in public service as an Assistant Federal Public Defender. His Public Defender duties included representing indigent criminal defendants in the federal courts in Cincinnati, Dayton and Northern Kentucky and supervising the Cincinnati and Dayton Federal Public Defender offices. He is a past President of the Greater Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

Johnson's service to the Public Defender's Office is being provided on a pro bono basis from Porter Wright. The Commission has thanked Porter Wright for its contribution of Johnson's services to the Office, and Chairman John Issenmann said they are very pleased to have Johnson serve in the role of interim Hamilton County Public Defender.

“Kelly brings significant experience and knowledge to this role. Having previously walked in the shoes of a public defender and now serving as defense counsel in private practice, he brings a unique perspective to this challenging position. His presence will provide a smooth transition in the Public Defender Office and will assure that high-quality services will continue to be provided to criminal defendants in Hamilton County.”

Issenmann said that while Johnson serves in the interim, the Hamilton County Public Defender Commission will conduct a search to fill the Public Defender position.

Robert W. "Buzz" Trafford, Porter Wright's Managing Partner, noted "Kelly's unique combination of skill and experience will prove a steady guide to the Public Defender's Office during the transition process. He understands the needs of community, the importance of serving the underprivileged, and the necessity of a stable Public Defender's Office. Porter Wright takes seriously the obligation of all lawyers to provide pro bono service to the communities where they live and work. Kelly will play a key role in helping disadvantaged individuals in Hamilton County navigate an often intricate legal system."

Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP is a large law firm that traces its roots to 1846 in Ohio. With offices in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; and Naples, Florida, Porter Wright provides counsel to a worldwide base of clients.