James J. Abbs

Chief Public Defender, Mr. Abbs grew up in Noble County and attended the University of Wisconsin River Falls and the Washburn School of Law in Kansas. Upon his graduation from law school, he practiced law in Minneapolis/St. Paul with one of the best known defense attorneys in Minnesota. During that period of time he tried major felony cases, including murder, throughout the state of Minnesota. In 1992 Mr. Abbs returned to Indiana and began private practice in Noble County and also served as a panel attorney for Federal Public Defender cases. He has tried over 40 major felony cases in 3 states and in the Federal Courts. He has successfully argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court and before the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has over 30 years of criminal defense experience. In 1994 Mr. Abbs became a part-time Public Defender in Noble County and in the year 2002 became the Chief Public Defender. He now handles murder and A through C Felonies along with juvenile cases besides his administrative duties. He has also served as President of the Indiana Chief Public Defenders' Association and as a board member of the Indiana Public Defender Counsel. In 2009, he received the Gideon Award from the Indiana Public Defender Council which is the highest award a public defender can receive in Indiana.

Howard F. Hanson

Deputy Public Defender, Mr. Hanson grew up in Northwest Indiana and is a graduate of Grace College and Ohio Northern University School of Law. Mr. Hanson began his practice of law in Allen County and eventually moved into Noble County. He has been practicing for over 30 years and has Felony trial experience. Mr. Hanson presently handles all D Felony cases filed in Noble County.

Jon Owen

Deputy Public Defender, Mr. Owen is a lifelong resident of Noble County. He is a graduate from Indiana University in Bloomington and from the Indiana University Law School in Indianapolis. Mr. Owen has been practicing law for over 35 years. He has an extensive criminal practice along with experiences of being a city attorney and handling other civil matters. Mr. Owen is an experienced litigator and presently handles Misdemeanor cases filed in Noble County.

Kathryn Byrom

Chief Deputy Public Defender, Ms. Byrom grew up in Noble County. She graduated from Indiana University magna cum laude in 2001 and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In, 2005, she graduated from Valparaiso University with a juris doctorate degree and a masters in psychology. She began in a private practice and then served two years as an attorney for the Department of Family and Children Services. She now handles mainly CHINS cases for the Agency and also does misdemeanor cases.

Christopher Jansen

Deputy Public Defender, Mr. Jansen grew up in Noble County and is a graduate of East Noble High School. He graduated from IUPUI in 1999 and served as a Probation Officer for the Noble County Probation Department. In May, 2013, he graduated from the Thomas F. Cooley, School of Law, cum laude. Mr. Jansen is presently assigned to handle Misdemeanor and CHINS cases. He also has a solo law practice Located in Kendallville, Indiana.



Deputy Public Defender, Mr. Clouse grew up in Noble County and graduated from Central Noble High School.  Clouse has earned degrees from Indiana University, Bloomington, and the University of Toledo College of Law.  Mr. Clouse began his practice of law in 1994, and over the course of his career has served as both a private attorney and a prosecuting attorney.  Mr. Clouse joined the Noble County Public Defender’s Office in 2020.

Sarah E. Ober

Deputy Public Defender, Sarah E. Ober, was born and raised in Noble County and is a 2011 graduate of Central Noble High School. She graduated from Ball State University in 2015, shortly after becoming a member of the national academic honor society Lambda Epsilon Chi. In May 2018, Ober graduated cum laude from New England Law | Boston, located in Boston, Massachusetts. During her time in law school, Ober provided legal services as a student attorney for the New England Law | Boston Clinical Law Office, served as a law clerk in the family law department of Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster, worked as a judicial intern for the Middlesex Probate and Family Court, and was an associate member of the New England Law Review. Ober spent her summers interning for Tipton Law Group and frequently provided freelance legal research and writing support for the firm during the academic year. Ober has dedicated her practice to criminal defense and collateral issues, and is presently assigned to handle Level 6 Felony cases filed in Noble County. 

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Deputy Public Defender, Ms. Helen L. Newman was raised in DeKalb County, Indiana. Helen has an associate of science degree in paralegal studies from Ivy Tech, a bachelor’s degree in general studies from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, a JD from Western Michigan University and a LLM in Homeland and National Security from Western Michigan University. Helen has been practicing criminal defense since 2014.