In 1959, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors created the Public Defender’s Office to provide “legal counsel and defense services for persons accused of felonies at the Superior Court level who could not afford to employ private attorneys.” Edward P. Foley was appointed the county’s first Public Defender.
In 1961, Charles E. Ward replaced Mr. Foley as Public Defender, holding the title until 1983. Mr. Ward’s 22-year administration oversaw the office's expanded mandate to represent misdemeanor and juvenile defendants.
David McKenna was appointed Public Defender in 1983 after he had already served as deputy district attorney, judge, and member of the Board of Supervisors. In 1986, the Public Defender’s West End Division moved into the new Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse.
John Roth's five-year administration, which began in 2000, implemented the office's client case file database, FACTS, as the department absorbed the county’s unprecedented growth, as well as enhanced post-juvenile adjudication responsibilities.
In 2006, Public Defender Doreen Boxer lobbied for additional attorney staffing to correspond to the increase in the county's criminal filings and introduced training programs for new attorneys and law clerks.
In 2010, Phyllis Morris, serving as the Interim Public Defender, led the office into the digital era with the iPad project, converting physical case files into digital files, and the clerical automation project. On November 27, 2012, she was appointed Public Defender.