Montana announces new director of the Office of the State Public Defender

Posted at 1:32 PM, Aug 31, 2022

HELENA — The Montana Department of Administration has announced Brett Schandelson has been hired as director of the Office of Public Defender starting September 1, 2022. Schandelson had been serving as acting director since June following the retirement of the previous director Rhonda Lindquist.

“I’m honored for this opportunity to lead the department and continue building on its solid foundation and structure,” said Schandelson. “Getting to continue working with such a dedicated and compassionate team makes me excited for the future and everything we will accomplish.”

Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles praised Schandelson’s work as acting director of OPD.

“Brett stepped up and successfully led the department as acting director. During that time, he demonstrated leadership, dedication to serving those most in need of assistance, and ensuring our citizens’ constitutional right to counsel is protected,” said Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles. “I’m confident in Brett’s ability to lead OPD and keep moving the department forward to meet the needs of Montanans.”

Schandelson is currently chief of OPD’s Development and Operations Bureau and manages the office’s data, reporting, IT services, contracts, public policy, media relations, and special projects.

Originally from Great Falls, Schandelson attended Montana State University before graduating from the University of Montana School of Law in 2008. After a decade-long litigation career, primarily focused on criminal defense in state courts, he joined OPD in 2018.

There has been a significant shortage of public defenders in Montana. OPD recently increased wages for all public defenders as an effort to help ease case backlog and staffing shortages they’ve faced.