Black History Month at the Defender!

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Join us for some exciting and informative content as we celebrate
Black History Month!

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Defender BHM Virtual Webinar

February 17th, 4-5 PM:
A conversation with Kristin Henning: Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth.

Watch the full video from the webinar below:

Learn more about Kristin Henning here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row parallax=”content-moving” parallax_content=”parallax_content_value”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1643910356440{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #000000 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Legal Giants!

Check out a few amazing historical (and current) Black lawyers from Philly and elsewhere who are making their mark on our world. You can also see this information by following us on Facebook and Instagram[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20″][dt_carousel slides_on_wide_desk=”1″ slides_on_desk=”1″ slides_on_lapt=”1″ slides_on_h_tabs=”1″ slides_on_v_tabs=”1″ arrow_bg_width=”36x” arrow_border_width=”0px” r_arrow_icon_paddings=”0px 0px 0px 0px” r_arrow_v_offset=”0px” l_arrow_icon_paddings=”0px 0px 0px 0px” l_arrow_v_offset=”0px”][vc_column_text]

Raymond Pace Alexander was a politician and attorney who dedicated his career to fighting for equal rights. As a lawyer, he had a reputation for representing Black defendants in high-profile cases, including the Trenton Six, where six Black men were accused of Murder in Trenton NJ.

After serving two terms with Philadelphia City Council, Alexander gave up a lucrative law practice in 1958 to become the first Black judge on the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas.

He also had a distinguished career as Counselor to the Haitian Embassy in Washington from 1947-1948; as Honorary Consul to the Republic of Haiti in Philadelphia from 1948-1956; and as Chief Counsel for the @NAACP.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Gertrude Rush was the first Black woman to practice law in the state of Iowa, and the only woman co-founder of the National Bar Association.
After finishing her undergraduate degree in 1914, Rush studied law under her husband, James B. Rush. She passed the Iowa Bar Exam in 1918. After being denied entry into the American Bar Association, she and four other attorneys formed the National Bar Association, an association for Black lawyers in 1925.


William T. Coleman, Jr., one of the most successful lawyers in the country, represented the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in litigation to remove racial restrictions from Girard College and was part of the team that worked for Thurgood Marshall in Brown v. Board of Education.
He was also the fourth U.S. Secretary of Transportation during the administration of President Gerald Ford. He was Chairman of the Board of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and has served on the boards of numerous corporations, including IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, PepsiCo, and Pan American World Airways Inc, and INA Corporation.
Coleman graduated suma cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941 and received his LL.B. degree from Harvard magna cum laude in 1946.


Meet Emerge Nevada Alumnae Belinda Harris, 2020 candidate for North Las Vegas Township, Justice Court Department 3!

After graduating from Howard University, Belinda worked for the Clark County School District in a role where she ensured children with disabilities received the services and education to which they were entitled and deserved.

Belinda joined the Defender Association of Philadelphia in 2006 as an assistant defender before moving back to Nevada to work in the Clark County Public Defender’s Office and she returned to North Las Vegas, to the same community where she grew up.

Harris is a Chief Deputy Public Defender for Clark County, where she continues to to protect the constitution and ensure the rights of all individuals are protected!


After leaving the Defender Association in 2013, Rep. Joanna McClinton, a lifelong Southwest Philadelphia native, combined her passion for the community and the law by becoming chief counsel to state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams. She worked behind the scenes, developing policy and legislation; organizing expungement fairs and public policy forums; and assisting constituents.

In August 2015, she won a special election to become the State House Representative for PA’s 191st District. Since then, she’s made history twice in Pennsylvania! In 2018, she became the first woman and first African American to be elected as House Democratic Caucus Chair. Then, in 2020, she was the first woman elected House Democratic Leader in the 244-year history of the oldest legislative body in the country.

After graduating from LaSalle University, she enrolled at Villanova University School of Law where she used her legal training to serve the public. She was an intern at Regional Housing Legal Services, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Defender Association of Philadelphia.


Richard Harris worked with #PhillyDefenders from 1998-2001.

After leaving the Defender Association, he defended the four initial defendants in the highly-publicized Lex Street Massacre case in Philadelphia. His defense of ultimately led to all charges being dropped for all four clients.

Since then, Harris has become an expert and thought leader in many areas of the law, including trial advocacy and litigation.

He’s still active in the Philadelphia community, serving on the Board of Trustees for Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School, Enon Coulter Community Development Corporation and the Arden Theatre.


Meet Tammy Michele Washington, an international powerhouse of a lawyer working to improve living conditions for people across the globe!

After graduating from Howard University Law School, Tammy worked with the Defender Association from 1992-1997. After leaving the Defender, she set up her own international legal consultant practice. From there, she has had an amazing career as an anti-corruption and rule-of-law expert who has led human rights, democratic governance, and rule-of-law projects for the United Nations Development Programme throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.

Tammy Michele Washington is an active member of the American Bar Association, where she serves on several committees, including the Africa Committee, International Human Rights Committee, and International Criminal Law Committee.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]David M. Walker graduated from Stanford and Stanford Law School. During law school, he was a staff editor for the Stanford Law and Policy Review. he interned for the Homicide Unit of the Santa Clara County’s Public Defender’s Office. He also worked at one of the nation’s premiere plaintiff litigation firms.

After graduating, he clerked for the Hon. Gary L. Lancaster, who sat on the Federal Bench in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Walker joined the Defender Association as a staff attorney in 2001. By the time he left in 2005, he was working in the Major Trial Division, handling only the most serious felony offenses.

He founded his firm, The Law Offices of David M. Walker after leaving the Defender, and he continues to provide legal counsel to the accused in the Philadelphia area.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Keir Bradford-Grey started her legal career in 1999 as an assistant public defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. In 2007, she went on to the Delaware Federal Defenders Office before being named Chief Defender for Montgomery County (PA) in 2012.

In 2015, she returned to the Defender Association, where she served as Philly’s first Black Chief Defender until 2021. During that time, she exposed the biases in our justice system and helped to change the conversation around criminal justice and public safety. She also spearheaded numerous initiatives designed to incorporate community members into the criminal justice process to connect clients to critically-needed support and services BEFORE their court date.

Bradford-Grey continues to dedicate her career to correcting the racial and financial inequities in our justice system.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Prior to joining the Defender Association in 1984, Charles A. Cunningham spent four years in private practice after clerking for the Honorable Harvey N. Schmidt. At the Defender, he was a senior trial attorney and instructor in our in-house trial advocacy training program from 1984 to 1990. In 1991, he became the Defender’s FIRST Black First Assistant Defender, a position he held until 2015.

Mr. Cunningham has served on the Board of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Capital Resource Center on Death Penalty, Standards for Appointed Counsel and the Criminal Justice Section Committee on Performance. He has also been a member of the Mayor’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and served on the Governor’s Criminal Justice Initiative Committee.

Mr. Cunningham served as an instructor for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and has been a Trial Advocacy Instructor at Harvard University, Benjamin Cardozo School of Law and Temple University School of Law. Mr. Cunningham also served as an Adjunct Professor 2015 to 2017 at Temple Law School.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Keisha Hudson has a been a public defender for nearly eighteen years as a public defender. She started her career with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, then went on to be 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.

In 2016, she left the Federal Defender to become Montgomery County (PA)’s Deputy Chief Defender, where she focused on building and strengthening advocacy in the courtroom, and addressing systemic issues with policing, pretrial detention, sentencing, and probation.

In 2020, Keisha 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. She came back to the Defender Association at the end of 2020, and we’re looking forward to the history she’ll make![/vc_column_text][/dt_carousel][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Full Video: MLK Day Shop Talk!


Watch the Full Video of our MLK Day Shop Talk event!

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MLK Day Shop Talk Workshops & Highlights:

  • Criminal Record Expungement Information Provided by the Defender Association
  • “School Discipline 101 for Students and Parents” Presented by Ashli Giles-Perkins, Esq., Education Law Center-PA
  • “Critical Race Theory for Students” Presented by Shyann V. Gales-Poland, Esq.
  • “Collective Resistance Through Hip Hop” Presented by Michael Coard, Esq. Nat Turner Law School

ALSO: Our partners, Victoria’s Kitchen and Sicklerville Soul provided FREE meals for Shop Talk attendees!


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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Keisha Hudson Named Chief Defender

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]PHILADELPHIA--The Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia is proud to announce the selection of Keisha Hudson as the new Chief Defender. 

“The Board’s decision to select Ms. Hudson followed an extensive national search,” said Defender Board President Paul Hetznecker, “With a proven record of collaborative leadership, public defender experience, and an extraordinary commitment to racial justice and criminal justice reform, Ms. Hudson is uniquely positioned to lead the Defender Association into the future.”  

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.

Last year, 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. From 2020 to the present Ms. Hudson has been a visiting professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. 

“The Defender Association is where my public defense career began,” said Ms. Hudson, “I am honored to have this opportunity to work with an incredible staff and the larger Philadelphia community in continuing the organization’s excellence in zealous advocacy and in pushing for much-needed changes to our criminal justice system.”

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Defender Files Amicus Brief: Scott v. PA Board of Probation & Parole


The Defender Association of Philadelphia has filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff in Scott v. PA Board of Probation and Parole. The lawsuit, filed in July 2020 by the Abolitionist Law Center, Amistad Law Project, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, is the first case of its kind in the country. It argues that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for those who did not kill or intend to kill do not serve any legitimate governmental interest and are illegally cruel under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The suit was brought by six people serving mandatory life without parole (LWOP). The six individuals are serving LWOP and are denied the possibility for parole due to their convictions for felony murder, even though they themselves did not kill anyone or intend to kill anyone.

The felony murder rule, which exists in forty-four states, holds a person liable for murder if the person participates in a felony that leads to a death, even if the person plays no direct role in the death or does not intend or anticipate it. In Pennsylvania, people found guilty are automatically sentenced to life, and a separate provision of state law prohibits parole eligibility for anyone serving life.

The Defender Association’s amicus brief highlights how paroled juvenile lifers, released after the U.S. Supreme Court decisions held their incarcerations to be unconstitutional, are positively contributing to the community. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will now decide if the lawsuit may proceed.

Read the Defender’s Amicus Brief here.

Additional Info:

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to sentence youth to mandatory life without parole, 541 individuals serving juvenile LWOP became entitled to a new sentencing hearing, with Philadelphia  having the largest group of children (325) serving mandatory LWOP. The Defender devised a three-year plan, worked side by side with court administration, City Council, the DA’s Office, and numerous legal organizations and private firms across the region. The Defender represented 75 percent of Philadelphia’s cases and trained and supported pro bono counsel to handle the remaining 25 percent. Across the Commonwealth to date, 469 former children sentenced to LWOP have been resentenced and 248 released.



Alan Tauber on Worsening Conditions in Philly’s Jails


PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia stands with the families of the incarcerated, prison employees, activists and concerned community members in decrying the continued deterioration of conditions in our city’s jails.

“The unsafe conditions are the direct result of personnel shortages exacerbated by the pandemic. The only way to increase the safety for the incarcerated and take some of the pressure off prison employees is to safely reduce the prison population.

“To that end, we’ve been working closely with our justice system partners to create a new court program involving pretrial release. We’ve made significant progress, and hope to implement this program soon. Our office continues to work to secure release for individual clients. Anyone who has a loved one who is incarcerated should reach out to our office and speak with an attorney so we can present the best argument possible on their behalf.

“In the meantime, we need to move with a sense of urgency to not only address the health and safety hazards created by prison overcrowding, but also protect the health and wellbeing of the people and communities we serve. This means working  closely with community leaders–particularly from those neighborhoods most impacted by both community violence and incarceration–to find solutions to the root causes of crime.

“We must also continue to build on established partnerships between criminal justice system stakeholders, activists, and advocates to explore community-driven alternatives to detention that promote equity and safety. This includes ensuring people who can be safely released from the jail have access to safe and affordable housing.

“Our work to reunify people with families and communities as we improve conditions in our jails must go hand-in-hand with programs and initiatives that provide brighter futures for the incarcerated and the neighborhoods they return to.”

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Alan Tauber on Passage of “Driving Equality” Bill

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City Council passed the “Driving Equality” bill, which  aims to reduce the vast racial disparity in motor vehicle stops by police


PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia applauds City Council for passing  the groundbreaking and data-driven ‘Driving Equality’ legislation. Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’s bill, which aims to reduce the vast racial disparities in motor vehicle stops by police, is a great first step to building more trust between our police and communities of color. Moreover, it is a bill that will allow law enforcement to divert more resources toward matters that directly impact public safety. 

“The Defender is honored to have had the opportunity to work closely with Councilmember Thomas, and other justice system stakeholders to help shape elements of this bill. We also thank Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Cherrelle Parker, Curtis Jones and Allan Domb for their leadership in advancing such a pivotal piece of legislation.

“We’re hopeful that passage of the ‘Driving Equality’ bill is just the beginning of informed and meaningful conversations about positive changes to our justice system that will benefit all Philadelphians.” 

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Alan Tauber on Philly Prison Conditions

PHILADELPHIA–“The incidents occurring behind our prison walls are tragic and  unacceptable, but unfortunately, not surprising.

“For over a year, the Defender has been outspoken about the need to address conditions in Philly’s prisons. Since last summer, the  population has swelled by 20 percent which has not been matched with needed staff. As a result, health and safety conditions continue to decline for detainees and prison employees alike. We simply must act with more urgency to come up with solutions to alleviate these problems.

“We have proven that the population can be safely and responsibly lowered to below 4,000. The release program we instituted last year led to millions in savings for the city, the closure of a county jail, and the availability of extra correctional officers at the remaining facilities. We need to return to this initiative immediately.”

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Restorative Response Days



During Restorative Response Days, you can complete your 8 hours within one or two days with one of our trusted community partners!

Scroll the list below or click here to download a printable list of community partners who are looking forward to working with you!

Questions? Email Kavita Goyal:

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][dt_button link=”” target_blank=”true” button_alignment=”center” size=”big”]CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON THE RESTORATIVE RESPONSE PROGRAM[/dt_button][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_raw_html]JTNDY2VudGVyJTNFJTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZkb2NzLmdvb2dsZS5jb20lMkZkb2N1bWVudCUyRmQlMkZlJTJGMlBBQ1gtMXZTQUlmckVyY2t1dGppel84MEhDbjZtRUR5a3IxZ21sR1BnTXVhN3FabEc3Zm5wcE8xbVFQcE9WU0lLNjluclg5Y0MzWGRsM0tuSmxueUQlMkZwdWIlM0ZlbWJlZGRlZCUzRHRydWUlMjIlMjB3aWR0aCUzRCUyMjEwMDAlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjIxNDAwJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGaWZyYW1lJTNFJTNDJTJGY2VudGVyJTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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