Allegheny County's new public defender to bring 'passion' to the job

Friday, 02 March 2012 10:00 AM Written by 

The PG's Paula Reed Ward and Len Barcousky detail the announcement of Elliot Howsie as the new Allegheny County public defender, taking the reins of an office that came under scrutiny last year when it was revealed that a 2008 study paid for by the county showed that it was "dysfunctional" and needed a stronger manager.

"A prosecutor in the Allegheny County district attorney's office for several years, Mr. Howsie said he will be willing to tackle existing problems. 'The vast majority of employees in that office want to do a good job and have done the best work they can,' Mr. Howsie said."

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he talked to dozens of lawyers before deciding on Howsie, the first African-American to hold the position.

According to a statement released by the county, as a sole practitioner, Mr. Howsie focused criminal defense and personal injury representation.  While a member of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office he served in the child abuse unit.  Howsie also clerked for the Pennsylvania Superior Court and served as an intern for the Public Defender’s Office and Neighborhood Legal Services while earning his Juris Doctorate.

A graduate of Central Catholic High School, Howsie earned his undergraduate and graduate degree from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in criminology.  He attended the Duquesne University Law School at night while working full-time, graduating in 1998.

A member of the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board and a board member with the Family and Community Enrichment Center at Macedonia Church in the Hill District, Howsie is also an adjunct professor at Duquesne University Law School.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.