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303-764-1400 Applying for a Public Defender

Joyce Akhahenda

Chief Deputy Public Defender

Joyce Akhahenda is Chief Deputy at the OSPD. She’s worked with our team for over 17 years, starting in the Denver Trial Office in December 2005 and then moving to the State Office in June 2022.

As part of the senior leadership team at the State Office, Joyce works on a wide variety of issues, including:

  • Retention and recruiting
  • Advocacy for clients
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Pay
  • Caseloads
  • Other budget issues
  • Developing training for supervisors

Ensuring that clients have the best representation possible is of vital importance to Joyce. The system is stacked against people of color and the indigent. She came into this field because she wanted to use her legal skills to ensure that clients would have a lawyer who would fight on their behalf and help amplify their voice against a system that overlooks and oppresses them.

When she thinks about the challenges associated with being a public defender, she reflects on her high school friend’s brother who was sentenced to death row as a juvenile for seven years until DNA evidence exonerated him. His legal representation was inadequate, and it is a constant reminder to her of why we need a strong public defense system. Justice should not only be available to people with money and power.

Joyce role as a public defender is to ensure that we have a system that fights against oppression and amplifies the voice of those we represent. While we may not win every battle, we can do our best to ensure we do our best in the fight. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Education and Credentials

Joyce earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry, from St. Mary’s University and her law degree from Tulane University School of Law. She earned a Mediation Certificate from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany and a DEI Certificate from e-Cornell

She is Chair of the Colorado Bar Association Criminal Law Section, Treasurer of the Sam Cary Bar Association and member of several legal organizations.  She serves on the Interstate Compact State Council and on the board for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness.

Family and Personal Interests

Joyce’s personal interests include watching plays and musicals. She enjoys reading books and socializing with friends. Cooking and finding new ethnic restaurants to visit is also a passion. When she gets the chance, she likes to travel both domestically and internationally.