Defender 90th Anniversary Highlights

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

 

April is 2nd Chance Month!

April is 2nd chance month, and at the Defender, giving our clients a second chance at a better future is a year-long mission! In addition to providing high-quality legal representation in the courtroom, we offer opportunities and information on criminal record expungements and probation terminations. 

Adult Criminal Record Expungements

Expungement request are the primary request from our Philadelphia community. At every community event we attend we offer one-on-one expungement clinics with our staff attorneys. In 2019 alone, we filed 405 new expungement petitions and saw 438 of our petitions granted by the courts.

 

An expungement is an order that requires state and local criminal justice agencies to erase something from a record. We offer our clients the opportunity to apply for criminal record expungements using via our website. Defender attorneys also do in-person expungement applications at public events like Defender Days, criminal justice workshops, block parties and more.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT ADULT CRIMINAL RECORD EXPUNGEMENTS

Juvenile Record Expungements

Expungement request are the primary request from our Philadelphia community. At every community event we attend we offer one-on-one expungement clinics with our staff attorneys. In 2019 alone, we filed 405 new expungement petitions and saw 438 of our petitions granted by the courts.

 

An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, removing it from a person’s public record. These court orders are not automatic – a petition must be filed to start the process. The Defender Association files these petitions for our clients.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT JUVENILE EXPUNGEMENTS

 

Probation Termination

The Defender offers probation termination services for clients. To be eligible, clients MUST BE COMPLIANT with their probation conditions, including reporting to their probation officer, attending mandated treatment appointments and paying fines and fees (if able).

 

APPLY FOR PROBATION TERMINATION HERE

Press Release: Pushing Back on Misleading Crime Narratives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2024
PRESS CONTACT: Rabiah Alicia Burks, r.burks@nlada.org, (202) 452-0620

 

Public Defense Chiefs Push Back on Misleading Crime Narratives that Are Driving Policy This Election Year

Speaking at Gideon Day press briefing, chiefs encourage reporters to speak to public defenders for better-informed stories, and discuss ways public defenders promote community safety.

 

WASHINGTON — Chief public defenders from across the country gathered today for a discussion on the state of public defense during a crime-focused election year. Co-sponsored by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), the panel discussion commemorated Gideon Day, the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which recognizes the constitutional right to public defense for people who cannot afford counsel. A recording of the event can be found here, and a fact sheet/resource guide for reporters is available here.

 

“Public defender offices across the country are wholly under-resourced, while prosecutors and law enforcement are funded at several times the rate, and this funding discrepancy leads to greater disparities and injustices within the legal system,” said April Frazier Camara, president and CEO of NLADA. “Misleading narratives on crime and safety are fueling these policy decisions. Public defenders are joining forces to fight back against these fear-based tactics and to combat these practices.”

 

The discussion was moderated by Civil Rights Corps Founder Alec Karakatsanis, a civil rights lawyer and former public defender who has written extensively about “copaganda,” or the manipulation of media by police and prosecutors. 

 

“Public defenders are dedicated to safe communities, and their voices should not go unheard in the national conversation about crime and community safety,” said Karakatsanis. “The extraordinary focus by the media on low-level-crimes reported by police has the effect of manipulating what all of us think and feel are the most urgent problems in our society.  It distracts us from the greatest dangers that we face and obscures safety solutions right in front of our eyes. Public defenders can be an invaluable counterbalance to that.”

 

“Providing indigent individuals with fierce representation in court itself fosters safer communities—by guarding against wrongful convictions and by advocating against incarceration, which is incredibly destabilizing for families and communities,” said San Francisco elected Public Defender Mano Raju. “Our office also provides services that address the root causes of interactions with the criminal system, such as our MAGIC youth programs, our College Pathway Project, which helps formerly incarcerated people go to college and our End the Cycle program, which connects newly arrested people to services.”

 

Many reporters accept without question the information and crime statistics that police and prosecutors give them, and in turn, their stories are used to bolster policy decisions that benefit law enforcement and drive incarceration. Journalists do a disservice to their readers when their stories are more about feelings than facts, according to the panel.  

 

“We have seen this play out in New York State, where the Governor has rolled back our historic bail reform law on multiple occasions,” said New York County Defender Services Executive Director Stan Germán. “Politicians have succumbed to a fear-mongering campaign launched by proponents of mass incarceration rather than focus on the data analysis which clearly demonstrated the success of a bail law that reduced the racial and wealth disparities in our criminal legal system.”

 

Funding is an ongoing struggle for public defender offices in large cities as well as rural areas, despite the fact that basic fairness should dictate that prosecutors and defenders receive equal funding. 

 

“In most states, funding for DAs is two to one compared to public defenders, dollar for dollar,” said Alameda County Chief Defender Brendon Woods. “That’s not a fair fight. Another significant factor is the work police departments do in support of the prosecution, essentially providing a free investigatory wing to every prosecutor’s office in the state. If you fund systems that incarcerate people, more incarceration will result. And incarceration drains public resources away from solutions that address the root causes of crime like housing, jobs, and education.”

 

“One of our biggest challenges is retaining experienced attorneys, who often leave public defense for better-paying jobs in other sectors. If we had pay parity with other legal offices, we’d be able to keep more veteran lawyers, which means better representation to our clients,” said Defender Association of Philadelphia Chief Defender Keisha Hudson. “I think public defenders have tremendous value to the media because we have the insight and data to share the full story of our clients—not just as suspects, but as full human beings.”

 

“In rural communities, recruitment is challenging due to vast legal deserts. A shortage of lawyers makes workloads for existing public defenders extremely high,” said Iowa State Public Defender Jeff Wright. “We have difficulty competing with the salaries prosecutors and other legal professions are able to offer.” 

 

With greater funding parity, public defender offices are better able to engage in community outreach and to expand programs that prevent people from being funneled into the system in the first place, said Orleans Public Defenders Director of Community Outreach and Lead Organizer Robert Jones.

 

“Our clients are the community, so we need to be part of that,” said Jones, who is formerly incarcerated. “Community members need to see PDs everywhere. Our office partners with community organizations to assist people when they are in the criminal legal system, and moreover to keep them from having contact with the system.” 

 

This press briefing was sponsored by the NLADA, the American Council of Chief Defenders, the Black Public Defender Association, the Gault Center, San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Defender Association of Philadelphia, the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, Orleans Public Defender’s Office, and New York County Defender Services. This event is part of NLADA’s ongoing initiative, “Fighting for the AccUSed: The Public Defender Campaign for Safe, Secure Communities.” The Fighting for the AccUSed campaign is changing perceptions about public defenders in communities and the press. It also seeks to build public support for the passage of the federal EQUAL Defense Act (HR 3758) and the Quality Defense Act (S.850), and urges the Biden Administration to support other federal, state, and local efforts to fund public defense.

 

Public defenders are integral parts of the communities they serve and include social workers, investigators, community engagement professionals, and lawyers. Nationwide, about 80 percent of individuals who are accused of crimes in the legal system are represented by a public defender. 

 

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), founded in 1911, is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. NLADA has pioneered access to justice at the national, state and local levels, playing a leadership role in the creation of public defender systems and other important institutions from The Sentencing Project to the Legal Services Corporation. A leader in the development of national standards for civil legal aid and public defense, NLADA also provides advocacy, training, and technical assistance for equal justice advocates across the country.

 

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Gideon 60/Defender 90 CLE Workshops

Join us in March for a series of CLE workshops celebrating 60 years of Gideon v. Wainwright and 90 Years of the Defender Association of Philadelphia! 

 

Check out any—or all!—of the workshops. CLE and CEU credits are available!

March 13, 3:00 pm:

History of Social Services and Mental Health at the Defender

 

Moderated by: James Haley

 

Panelists:

Kia Mayes

Erica Berson

Gregg Blender

Luna Pattela

Dana Cook

Candy Chang

March 25, 3:30 pm:

History of Representation of Jailed Clients  by the Defender Association: From “Inmates” to “Incarcerated People”

 

Moderated by: Tom Innes

 

Panelists:

Ben Lerner

Melanie Young

Meredith Zeitzer

March 27, 3:30 pm:

History of Homicide Representation in Philadelphia County:  Before the Defender Homicide Unit; The Sea Change; Homicide Defense Going Forward

 

Moderated by: Tom Innes

 

Panelists:

Ben Lerner

Dan Stevenson

Helen Marino

Everett Gillison

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

Video: Why Black & Brown Public Defenders are Crucial

We represent 70% of the people accused of crimes in Philadelphia. An overwhelming majority of these are Black and Brown people. Having Black & Brown attorneys and staff is a crucial part of ensuring that we not only understand their legal cases, but who they are as people and the communities they come from.

 

Watch this amazing video produced by Defender Mitigation Specialist Donte Green to hear from Defender attorneys and staff about why you should join our team if you want to make a difference in the lives of our BIPOC clients.

 

 
See Current Job Opportunities

Press Release: Defender, Partners for Justice Collaboration

PHILADELPHIA–The Defender Association of Philadelphia is partnering with national nonprofit Partners for Justice (PFJ) to further expand its practice and take on more extensive wrap-around service capacity in the community. The partnership, which officially began on July 17, will enable the Defender to bring on a team of non-attorney advocates who will help clients navigate and mitigate the damage caused by the criminal legal system, ensuring more people are able to move forward from a criminal case with their futures intact. 

The collaboration between the two organizations began this month when three PFJ client advocates began two-year stints with the Defender Association. The advocates, working within the Defender Association’s juvenile and adult divisions, will assist attorneys with mitigation and aid clients with ancillary matters, from youth mentoring and assistance with school evictions to re-entry work and parole planning. 

“Our partnership with PFJ is critical to our mission to provide client-centered advocacy that not only includes providing legal services, but connecting clients to supportive services and creating pathways to social and economic stability,” said Chief Defender Keisha Hudson.

Partners for Justice was founded in 2018 with a mission to transform public defense and has since expanded to 24 locations across the nation. Philadelphia is PFJ’s second location in the commonwealth, following a 2022 partnership with the Delaware County Public Defender’s Office, and third location regionally with a site in Delaware. Since PFJ was founded, client advocates have connected thousands of clients annually with supportive services and reduced jail time by finding appropriate and effective non-carceral alternatives.

“We’re incredibly excited to collaborate and help the Defender Association level up their already amazing services, said Emily Galvin-Almanza, PFJ’s Founder and co-Executive Director, “Public defenders are most visible as essential front-line workers in our legal system, but looking at the work they actually do—helping folks with housing, employment, substance use and mental health treatment, benefits access—it becomes clear that they’re actually integral to our public safety, public health, and economic infrastructure as well.”

Hudson said Collaborating with PFJ will help the Defender Association achieve its goal of expanding services provided to its child and youth clients. “We were very specific about centering our young clients in our budget request to the City of Philadelphia. Bringing in PFJ Advocates is one of the ways we’re investing the additional resources we received this year from City Council.”

Galvin-Almanza: “When public defenders partner with our Advocates, clients have the resources and tools to break the cycle of poverty, criminalization, and incarceration Investing in public defenders is investing in the safety of our communities and investing in individual prosperity.”

For information about this partnership, read BillyPenn’s coverage here.

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Questions about Philly’s Justice System? Ask a Defender!

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Want one of our attorneys to answer your question on social media? Ask a Defender! 

Here’s an opportunity to send us video selfie of you asking general questions about the courts, life as a public defender, or anything you wanted to know about our criminal justice system!* 

Just click here to complete the question form and upload your video.

Don’t want to do a video? No problem! You can just type in your question, and we’ll respond!

Once we answer your question, we’ll post it on our social channels (IG, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok) – @phillydefenders. 

Want us to tag you? Be sure to include your social media handles on the form. [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1683656317064{background-color: #ffffcc !important;}”]*NOTE: The answers shared on “Ask a Defender” is NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR COUNSEL. We’re just providing general answers to people’s questions about our justice system. If you have specific question about an active criminal case, Send an email to contact@philadefenders.org or call 215-568-3190[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1683653633955{background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”40″][ult_buttons btn_title=”ASK YOUR QUESTION HERE” btn_link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fforms.gle%2FoYGQ5XHJup9r7cF9A||target:%20_blank|” btn_size=”ubtn-large” btn_title_color=”#00b8ff” btn_bg_color=”#ffffff” btn_hover=”ubtn-bottom-bg” btn_bg_color_hover=”#00b8ff” btn_title_color_hover=”#ffffff” icon_size=”32″ btn_icon_pos=”ubtn-sep-icon-at-left” btn_border_style=”solid” btn_color_border=”#00b8ff” btn_color_border_hover=”#ff5100″ btn_border_size=”1″ btn_radius=”3″ btn_font_family=”font_family:Poppins|font_call:Poppins|variant:900″ btn_font_style=”font-weight:900;” btn_font_size=”desktop:16px;”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1683655262214{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;background-color: #0061b9 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]You can also “Ask a Defender” in-person! We plan to have the “Ask a Defender” team set up at the Defender table at future community events to collect your questions! [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Defender Association FY24 Budget Testimony

[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1682711248527{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]On April 25, 2023, Chief Defender Keisha Hudson testified before City Council to advocate for an additional $5 million budget increase for FY2024.

You can download the full written testimony here.

Here is the slide presentation of our testimony[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1682711176785{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #263797 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

More: Watch Chief Defender Keisha Hudson’s April 25 testimony below:

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April 29: Level Up ⬆ Southwest!

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Join on Saturday, April 29 at The Common Place/Salt & Light for “Level Up Southwest!”

Defender attorneys will be providing #expungement services* at this #community event, which also features:

  • A WILLS WORKSHOP
  • EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES
  • PROPERTY TAX HELP
  • U.S. CITIZENSHIP ELIGIBILITY SCREENING
  • CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES; and
  • FREE FOOD!

Pre-registration for the record-clearing workshop is encouraged, but NOT REQUIRED.

Click here to download the event flyer. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Follow us: @PhillyDefenders