Statement on Alexander Spencer Shooting

PHILADELPHIA—”The Defender Association of Philadelphia sends its condolences to Alexander Spencer’s family, friends and community. We join the public call for a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident that led to his death on January 26.


“As public defenders, we know it’s a mistake to jump to conclusions before all the evidence has come to light. But what’s been reported so far sounds too similar to tragedies that have played out in Philly and across the country–right down to the police narrative that seems to shift with every new piece of information revealed.


“Every time there’s an incident like this, it creates more mistrust between the police and the neighborhoods they’re sworn to protect. If we want our communities to be safe, we need to explore and invest in interventions that help reduce, not increase, the number of interactions between law enforcement and our communities.


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Defender 90th Anniversary

On April 4, 2024, we’re celebrating 90 years of representing Philly adults and youth with a very special event at the Constitution Center. All are welcome to attend and celebrate along with the Defender’s past and present leaders, and many more elected officials and luminaries who began their careers at the Defender Association.


Help us celebrate 90 years of public defense in Philly, as we look to grow the next generation of Philly Defenders! Click the links below to learn how you can take part in the celebration!


Details, tickets and sponsorship information here


Apply Today: HBCU Community Engagement Fellows

About the Program:


The Defender Association is one of the public defender offices participating in the Black Public Defenders Association Community Engagement Fellowship. The fellowship is a 12-week summer program that pairs Black undergraduate and graduate HBCU students, who aspire to do racial equity and community defense work, with public defender offices.


This fully paid internship opportunity will offer hands-on lessons about addressing systemic issues of racism that plague the legal system while inspiring young people to achieve their educational goals and consider careers in public defense. The internship opportunity will be promoted to Black undergraduates and graduate students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.


Visit the BPDA website for more details

HBCU Students: Apply Today!

The application deadline is Friday, February 2. 


Saturday, December 9: Expungement Clinic

WHEN: Saturday, December 9  |  12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Tustin Recreation Center, 5901 W Columbia Ave, Philadelphia


This Saturday, the Defender Association, is partnering with the Philadelphia Technician Training Institute, Free Library of Philadelphia and the ReAwakening Agency for a


Record Expungement Clinic and Resource Fair


The event features information on re-entry programs, employment assistance, healthcare and community services, and FREE criminal record expungement help from Defender Association attorneys.


Download the event flyer for details

Defender Joins Protest of ICE at Philly Courthouses

Chief Defender Keisha Hudson, joined a press conference organized by Juntos to protest Federal ICE agents’ practice of detaining undocumented clients, witnesses and family members outside of Philly’s courtrooms. Full remarks below: 


The Defender Association of Philadelphia represents over 70% of the people accused of crimes in the city. All of our clients are poor, most of them are people of color and many of them undocumented city residents.


All of these groups have one thing in common: a fraught relationship with our justice system. As public defenders, it is our job to provide the best possible legal counsel to our clients.


But mistrust in our system often makes it difficult to get them, as well as witnesses from the community and even supporters and family members, to fully participate in the legal process.


Enforcement of immigration laws does not mean interfering with our ability to deliver justice for our clients and communities. But that’s exactly what’s happening here.


ICE’s practice of literally seizing individuals as they step foot outside of this courthouse undermines the court’s ability to provide equal access to justice and shatters confidence in the safety of the courthouse and the judicial system–not just among the undocumented, but the general public.


We’ve raised this issue with the leadership of the First Judicial District. We’re hopeful that the Courts will work with us to find solutions to curb the very serious threat ICE’s actions pose to the integrity and effectiveness of Philly’s justice system.

Defender Association/Partners For Justice Featured in Philadelphia Citizen

Check out this story in the Philadelphia Citizen featuring the work of our Partners for Justice colleagues! Learn more about the partnership here.


Chief Defender Congratulates Mayor-Elect Cherelle Parker

PHILADELPHIA–“On behalf of the staff and Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, I congratulate Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker on becoming the first woman–and first Black woman–to be elected Mayor of Philadelphia.


The Defender Association looks forward to a positive and productive partnership with the Parker administration, as well as our new City Councilmembers, as we work to address the challenges facing our public defenders, clients and communities.

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Defender Statement in Support of HB1410

PHILADELPHIA–“Pennsylvania has archaic and overly punitive sentencing laws that have little positive impact on public safety in the Commonwealth. Like most aspects of our judicial system, the harshest impacts are felt by Pennsylvania’s Black and Brown incarcerated population.

“Our experience working in communities teaches us that returning citizens are an incredible resource and source of positive guidance for young people in our neighborhoods.
Right now there are around 2,000 commutation-eligible people serving time in Pennsylvania prisons, costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year. By requiring a simple majority of the board to commute sentences, HB1410 will give these citizens a much-needed second chance to show that they are far more valuable at home than behind prison walls.

“The Defender Association of Philadelphia urges the PA Legislature to pass HB1410, and brighten the future for incarcerated people and their families.”

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Keisha Hudson on “Exonerated Justice” Legislation

September 14, 2023: Chief Defender Keisha Hudson made the following remarks at a press conference for Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’s “Exonerated Justice” legislation.


Entanglements with the justice system often do permanent harm to individuals and their families. For those who are ultimately exonerated, the stigma, pain and anguish caused by the system can remain for a lifetime. 


The Defender Association of Philadelphia has always invested heavily in supportive services for our adult and youth clients. The ability to provide these critical services is one reason why a well-funded public defender is so important. We constantly seek to partner with local organizations to leverage existing community resources that will improve outcomes for justice system-involved people at all stages–from arrest, to sentencing, to release.


Even though they are just as negatively impacted by the system, exonerated people are too often left out of the conversations about re-entry. We act as if their exoneration is all they need to get their lives back on track. Exonerated Justice would provide a critical, one-stop access to resources and services they need as they reintegrate into their communities. This is particularly important here as, unlike other jurisdictions, the state of Pennsylvania does not provide any financial compensation to those who have been wrongfully convicted. The Exonerated Justice legislation is a welcome and much-needed step toward improving the lives of the wrongfully accused.


Our office thanks Councilmember Thomas and his team for once again thinking holistically about how we can mitigate the damage caused by our justice system, and for allowing the Defender Association to share our insights and expertise as we develop solutions. 


We look forward to the passage, and ultimate implementation of this legislation, and look forward to working with the City to ensure that we fully acknowledge the harm caused by wrongful convictions, and do everything we can to make things right. 


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