The Utah Indigent Defense Commission has announced that Joanna E. Landau, an S.J. Quinney College of Law alumna, has been hired as its executive director.
Landau brings experience as a public defender with the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association to the position, where she worked for several years representing indigent criminal defendants on appeal to the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals. She also assisted many trial court judges while working as an attorney in the Third District Court.
A Colorado native, Landau earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 2006.
Pursuant to legislation sponsored by Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler passed in the 2016 General Session, Landau will work with the commission and local governments to assist the state in meeting its obligations to provide assistance of counsel to indigent defendants, consistent with the state and federal constitutions and the Utah Code. To fulfill that obligation, the legislation tasks the commission with many duties, including the development of guiding principles to assess and oversee indigent criminal defense services in the state, and using legislatively-appropriated funds to make grants to local governments to assist them in providing constitutional indigent defense services.
Creation of the commission was recommended after a multi-year study of indigent defense services in Utah, conducted by a task force of prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, local government representatives and legislators. The 11 voting members of the commission were appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert and confirmed by the Utah State Senate over the summer. With Landau on board, the commission can now begin its work.