Noble County Courts

Public Defender


Attorneys and Staff

The following is a brief synopsis of the attorneys and staff who work for the Noble County Public Defender Agency:

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 where he tried major felony cases, including murder, throughout the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin. 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 100 cases in 4 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 25 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. 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 Northern Ohio 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 25 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 30 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.

Wendy Martin- Mrs. Martin is a lifelong resident of Noble County who is presently the Office Administrator for the Noble County Public Defender’s Agency. Mrs. Martin has extensive experience in the legal field as she has worked in a law office since 1980. Mrs. Martin and Mr. Abbs have worked together since he returned to Indiana in 1992. She presently oversees the operation of the Agency as well as assisting clients and in the investigation and handling of the cases. She serves in the role of administrator, paralegal and investigator for the office.

Kathryn Byrom- 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.

Seth Tipton- Mr. Tipton grew up in Noble County. He is a 1999 graduate of Manchester College. In 2007, he graduated from Thomas Cooley Law School with distinctions. Mr. Tipton then began in the private practice of law. He also began handling felony conflict cases for the Agency which he still continues to do. He will also be handling misdemeanor cases along with some CHINS cases. Mr. Tipton has special interest in constitutional cases.