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The Public Defender is a half-hour 69-episode television dramatic series starring Reed Hadley (1911–1974) as Bart Matthews, an attorney for the indigent.[1] The series aired on CBS from March 11, 1954, to June 23, 1955, a season and a half.[2] The series was sponsored by Philip Morris cigarettes; by the middle of its second season, Revlon cosmetics became an alternate sponsor.

The Public Defender
GenreLegal drama
Created byMort R. Lewis
Sam Shayon
Written byHoward J. Green
John Tucker Battle
Mort R. Lewis
David Dortort
Directed byErle C. Kenton
Budd Boetticher
Paul Guilfoyle
Harve Foster
StarringReed Hadley
John Close
Jeri Lou James
Hugh Beaumont
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1.5
No. of episodes69
Producer(s)Hal Roach, Jr.
Carroll Case (1954)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)H-R Productions
DistributorInterstate Television Corporation
Original networkCBS
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseMarch 11, 1954 (1954-03-11) –
June 23, 1955 (1955-06-23)
Preceded byFour Star Playhouse (9:30 EST Thursdays, 1954-1955)
Followed byName That Tune (10:30 EST Thursdays, 1954-1955)



When this series was created by Mort R. Lewis and Sam Shayon, the concept of the public defender was little known in the United States except in capital cases.[3] A 1932 United States Supreme Court decision Powell v. Alabama clarified the need for public defenders for suspects accused of crimes which if convicted might lead to execution. The use of public defenders was broadened in 1962 in another high court case, Gideon v. Wainwright to include public defenders for all suspects charged with any level of felony, a broadening of the Powell ruling.[4] The Public Defender purportedly based each episode on true cases,[5] and each segment closes with a tribute to a public defender. Hadley portrays the stoic but driven public defender Bart Matthews, whose clients cannot otherwise afford expensive legal representation.[3]

Guest starsEdit

John Close appeared in seven episodes as a detective. Jeri Lou James appeared five times as Julie Saunders. Ann Doran and Hugh Beaumont appeared three times each as Bonnie Landis and Ed McGrath, prior to their casting on National Velvet and Leave It to Beaver, respectively. The McGrath character is also portrayed in two episodes by Dick Foran. Russ Conway appeared three times as Chief Paul Carter. Frances Rafferty, also appearing with Spring Byington on the CBS sitcom December Bride, was cast in two segments as Barbara Norton. Character actor Denver Pyle appeared twice in the role of George Hansen.[6]

In the premiere episode entitled "The Case of the Parolee", Bart Matthews defends an ex-convict suspected of robbing his boss. In the second season premiere in the episode entitled "Return of the Dead", Natalie Wood portrays the character Rene Marchand, with Robert Bice as Lieutenant Davis and Gladys Holland as Collette Marchand. Bice appeared twice on the program; Holland, three times.[6] In the episode entitled "The Ring", Matthews defends a carnival worker charged with grand theft. In "Love and Conscience", Matthews attempts to prove the innocence of a truck driver, who is wrongly implicated in a hijacking.[3]

Other guest stars included: Merry Anders, Paul Brinegar, Robert Bray, Steve Brodie, Charles Bronson, Sally Brophy, Argentina Brunetti, George Chandler, Walter Coy, Richard Deacon, Mason Alan Dinehart, William Fawcett, Douglas Fowley, James Gleason, Don Haggerty, Peter Hansen, Richard Jaeckel, Douglas Kennedy, Brett King, Nan Leslie, Robert Knapp, Burt Mustin, John M. Pickard, Bing Russell, Lyle Talbot, Marshall Thompson, Kenneth Tobey, Ben Welden, Peter Whitney, Marie Windsor, and Will Wright.[6]


The series was filmed by Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, California.[6]The Public Defender aired at 10 pm ET on Thursdays from March to June 1954, having preceded the quiz show Place the Face, hosted by Jack Bailey and then Bill Cullen. From September 1954 to June 1955, The Public Defender ran opposite Kraft Television Theater on ABC and Lux Video Theatre on NBC. The police drama The Telltale Clue aired on CBS in the Thursday 10pm time slot from July 18 to September 23, 1954.[7] From July to September 1954, it aired at 9 p.m. Mondays.[5]

In the 1951-1953 seasons, Hadley had starred as the fictional Captain John Braddock of San Francisco in Racket Squad,[1][3] which was narrated by Hugh Beaumont. Similar to The Public Defender is the 1954-1956 NBC legal drama Justice, starring Dane Clark and Gary Merrill.

Home mediaEdit

Selected episodes of The Public Defender have been available on DVD since 2005.[3]


  1. ^ a b Alex McLeod, "The Public Defender", Total Television, p. 677
  2. ^ "The Public Defender on". Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Public Defender: Editorial Reviews". Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  4. ^ "Gideon v. Wainwright". Oyez: U.S. Supreme Court Media. Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. The Complete Directory to Prime-Time Network and Cable Television Shows, 1946-Present. New York City: Random House. p. 731.
  6. ^ a b c d "The Public Defender". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
  7. ^ Alex McLeod, Total Television, appendix, network television schedule

External linksEdit