Public Defender

McKean County Courthouse
500 West Main St
Smethport, PA 16749

Philip Clabaugh
Chief Public Defender

Phone - 814-887-3316
Fax - 814-887-3226
Email - Click here

The McKean County Public Defender’s Office provides quality legal representation to any person who is charged with a qualifying criminal offense, and, for lack of funds as determined by office guidelines, is unable to afford or otherwise obtain private legal counsel. 


The Public Defender Act authorizes the Office of the Public Defender to provide legal counsel in the following matters:

  • Any juvenile delinquency proceedings
  • Any eligible offenses in adult court – includes all felony and misdemeanor offenses, and summary offenses that could involve incarceration (i.e. driving under DUI related driver’s license suspension citation);
  • Critical pretrial identification procedures;
  • Preliminary hearings;
  • State habeas corpus proceedings;
  • State trials, including pretrial and post-trial motions;
  • Criminal appeals (Pennsylvania Superior Court and Pennsylvania Supreme Court)
  • Post-conviction hearings at the trial and appellate levels;
  • Criminal extradition proceedings;
  • Probation and parole violation hearings;
  • Indirect criminal contempt: (i.e. violations of protection from abuse orders and Clerk of Courts failure to pay)
  • Involuntary commitment under the Mental Health Procedures Act; and
  • Any proceeding where personal liberty is in jeopardy.
Pursuant to the Public Defender Act, the McKean County Public Defender is not authorized to handle civil cases. If the government, through the prosecutor or the police department, is not charging you with a crime, we probably won’t be able to represent you. Some examples of civil cases for which we cannot provide legal representation include:

  • divorces
  • child custody
  • reductions in child support
  • employment disputes
  • collections
  • bankruptcies
If your legal case or questions fall into one of these categories, you may want to contact a private attorney.

"…reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him… The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours.  From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him."  Gideon v. Wainwright 372 U.S. 335 (1963)