Keisha Hudson, Chief Defender

Since becoming Chief Defender in November 2021, Keisha Hudson has brought local and national attention to the critical role played by public defenders in maintaining and reforming our criminal justice system. By combining her background as an accomplished lawyer, leader and activist, she has improved the Defender’s delivery of services to its clients, achieved pay parity for Defender attorneys and staff, and refocused the Defender’s mission to be a more people-focused and inclusive organization. 

Keisha Hudson spent nearly eighteen years as a public defender, first with the Defender Association of Philadelphia and then as a capital appellate defender with the Federal Defender-Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Capital Habeas Unit) representing people on death row in their state post-conviction and federal habeas appeals. As a seasoned trial and appellate defender, Ms. Hudson has an in-depth understanding of what it means to be a public defender. At the Capital Habeas Unit, Ms. Hudson was the Director of Training.  

In 2016, Ms. Hudson left the Federal Defender and joined the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender Officer to become the Deputy Chief Defender. Ms. Hudson joined the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender with the goal of building and strengthening advocacy in the courtroom. Along with former Chief Defender Dean Beer, Ms. Hudson addressed systemic issues regarding policing, pretrial detention, sentencing, and probation in the county. In four years, Chief Defender Dean Beer and Ms. Hudson built one of the best public defender offices in the state.

In 2020, Ms. Hudson worked with The Justice Collaborative and The Appeal, developing and leading advocacy and media campaigns on criminal justice issues- specifically campaigns aimed at looking at creative and successful community alternatives that truly create public safety. Ms. Hudson was a visiting professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law from 2020 to 2021

Sarah Allen Named First Assistant Defender

Sarah Allen Named First Assistant Defender

PHILADELPHIA–The Defender Association today announced that Sarah Allen will be the new First Assistant Defender. Allen, a 23-year veteran of the Defender Association, is currently the Chief of the Municipal Court Pre-trial unit and is responsible for supervising all misdemeanor cases pre-trial. 

On behalf of the Board I want to congratulate both Keisha Hudson on her selection and Sarah Allen for being selected as First Assistant,” said Defender Board President Paul Hetznecker, “Sarah Allen is an excellent choice for the role. Ms. Hudson’s decision to select Ms. Allen, a career Defender, is recognition that a careerlong, passionate commitment to the Defender mission is essential to continuing on the path to real criminal justice reform.” 

Sarah Allen will be replacing Alan Tauber, who will remain with the Defender until January to assist with the leadership transition. “When our justice system all but shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, Sarah spearheaded our efforts to secure emergency releases for more than 1,000 incarcerated people,” said Tauber, “Her ability to execute this huge, critical program is indicative of the professionalism, leadership, innovation and commitment she will bring to her role as First Assistant Defender.” 

Chief Defender Keisha Hudson, who officially started in her new role on November 30, said she was “thrilled” to work with Ms. Allen, citing her impeccable reputation as an attorney, a leader, a collaborator, and a visionary. “I am incredibly honored to work with her,” said Hudson. 

“I am extremely honored and proud to be selected to be the First Assistant,” Allen said, “We are facing extremely challenging times and Keisha [Hudson] has assembled a team that is ready to face these challenges and move the Defender forward.” 

Sarah Allen steps into her new role on Monday, December 6, 2021.

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