Keisha Hudson on Court’s Dismissal of Irizarry Shooting Case

PHILADELPHIA—“Our (mostly Black and Brown) clients never get to present or argue a justification defense at a preliminary hearing. And they certainly do not get their cases dismissed based on a judge’s determination that there was a justification defense.


“Instead, our clients—all of whom are poor and almost exclusively Black and Brown people—have their cases held for trial, and they sit in jail for months awaiting their day in court. Going forward, certainly before this forum, Defender Association attorneys will be making the same arguments and demanding the same results.”


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Keisha Hudson on Passing of JoAnne A. Epps


PHILADELPHIA–“The staff and Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Interim Temple University President JoAnne A. Epps.


“JoAnne was a past president and current member of the Defender’s Board of Directors. Even after being named Temple’s interim president, her commitment to the work of the Defender never wavered. She was a consistent and needed presence at every board meeting, and provided invaluable input that has helped us shape our policies, priorities and values.


“This is a devastating loss for the public defender community and our city. Though we, like the entire Temple University family, are emotionally reeling right now, our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and family at this extremely difficult time.”


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Chief Defender on Shooting of Eddie Irizarry

PHILADELPHIA–“It’s a very sad fact that Eddie Irizarry should be alive today. It’s also true that we, as a city must come together to honestly and forcefully address the issue of shifting police narratives.

“This is an issue we, as public defenders deal with too often in the courtroom. When police officers give misleading accounts of their own actions, it not only undermines the integrity of our justice system, but also creates irrevocable harm to people on trial. If we want to have a serious conversation about public safety, then we need every stakeholder to honestly and transparently perform their duties.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Eddie Irizarry’s family and loved ones, and we join them in calling for answers and accountability from our justice system for this tragedy.”

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Defender Statement on JJSC Ruling from Commonwealth Court

PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia applauds the Commonwealth Court ruling ordering the state to intervene to ease the overcrowding and mitigate the unhealthy and dangerous conditions at Philly’s Juvenile Justice Services Center (JJSC).

“For months, Defender’s leadership team and attorneys have been advocating—publicly, privately and every day in court—for a range of solutions that would address the overcrowding at the JJSC and ensure that these children received the care and supportive services they need. Although we’re waiting for the City and the Courts to reconvene our weekly meetings on JJSC, the Commonwealth’s suggestion that we haven’t been engaged in this conversation is factually inaccurate and insulting.

“To be sure, there are approaches we should be implementing to address the problem. Reexamining who should be detained; better use of existing technology (e.g. GPS monitors) and reporting centers; and working with local organizations to expand our pipeline of supportive services for children are all ideas we should explore on the local level. But this crisis also requires some intervention and a greater sense of collaboration from the Commonwealth. For example, just a slight, temporary adjustment to their staffing ratios (say, from 1:4 to 1:5) could go a long way to easing overcrowding at the JJSC.

“The JJSC is just the latest example of why simply warehousing young people is not an effective public safety tactic. In the short term, we’re straining city resources and putting children and staff at risk. In the long term, the family separation and life-threatening conditions of confinement are exposing our children to trauma that can last for a lifetime.”

Keisha Hudson on FY 2024 Budget

The Defender’s budget increase shows our City leaders understand the value of a well-funded public defenders office.

PHILADELPHIA–“On behalf of the staff and Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, I’d like to thank the Kenney Administration and City Council for proposing and passing a budget that includes a significant funding increase for our office.

“While our primary role is providing free legal counsel for those accused of crimes, we believe that connecting our clients to supportive services is the key to keeping them out of prison and on the path to brighter futures. To that end, the Defender Association will be putting the additional funds to good use. Most notably, we’ll be adding more social workers and attorneys to support our children and youth clients. The increase will also allow us to collaborate with Partners for Justice, whose advocates will work alongside our attorneys, connecting clients to healthcare, employment, housing and other needs.

“We appreciate the City of Philadelphia for recognizing that, when it comes to creating healthier, safer communities, a well-funded public defender is every bit as important as the investments we make in law enforcement and other areas of the justice system.”

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Keisha Hudson on Gov. Shapiro’s Budget Proposal

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Governor Shapiro’s proposal to invest $10 million in state funds to indigent defense is welcome news for public defenders, and the clients we represent across the Commonwealth.

“As the Governor pointed out in his budget address, ‘Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the nation that provides zero dollars for indigent defense. That’s not a list we want to be on.’

“The Defender Association of Philadelphia wholeheartedly agrees with the Governor on this. Even if this investment is made–and we truly hope the legislature approves this–it is far from the funding needed for Pennsylvania’s public defense system to be on truly firm footing. However, this investment represents an unprecedented acknowledgment of the importance of our collective work as public defenders.”

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Keisha Hudson on First Year of Driving Equality Law


Driving Equality has had a significant impact in cutting down racially-motivated pretextual stops, and no negative impact on public safety.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia joins Councilmember Isaiah Thomas in celebration of the one year anniversary of the Driving Equality Law, and thanks him for his vision and leadership in making this law a reality in Philadelphia.

“I also want to highlight the Defender’s Police Accountability Unit for the outstanding work they’ve done to compile and analyze the data that guides the purpose of this law–reducing the number of unnecessary, negative encounters between police and community members. The data is clear: Driving Equality has had a significant impact in cutting down racially-motivated pretextual stops, while having no negative impact on public safety.

“To truly appreciate Driving Equality, we should look beyond what the law does, and celebrate the thoughtful, evidence-based and collaborative approach to its creation. Driving Equality didn’t just happen–it is the culmination of months of debate, discussion and collaboration between City leaders, the Defender Association, the police and the community. Driving Equality is being studied and replicated by other American cities because it’s a great example of a ‘good government’ law that takes a balanced, data-driven approach to public safety and racial justice.

“The Defender Association is proud to be recognized for our subject matter expertise in this area, and are thankful for the opportunity we’ve been given to work with Councilmember Thomas and his team on this now nationally recognized model legislation.

“We’re committed to working together with elected leaders, justice system and community stakeholders on future endeavors to increase trust and cooperation between Philadelphia residents and institutions.

“We’re thrilled to be celebrating one year of Driving Equality, and hope that this law is the first of many legislative initiatives aimed at making Philadelphia a more just and safe city.”

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Keisha Hudson on Abolishing the Death Penalty in PA


Abolishing the Death Penalty would save the lives of many incarcerated people from Philadelphia.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia applauds and supports Governor Shapiro’s call for the Pennsylvania Legislature to abolish the death penalty.

“We know that the death penalty is not a crime deterrent or an avenue to increased public safety. Moreover, many, if not most of the people sitting on death row in Pennsylvania facilities are former Philadelphia residents who do not deserve to be put to death.

“The work of our community allies around compassionate release has demonstrated that many of the people languishing for decades in prison could be safely returned to their communities, and even be positive agents for change in neighborhoods experiencing high levels of violence.

“The Defender Association thanks Governor Shapiro for his leadership on this issue. We will lend our expertise and advocacy to any efforts toward legislation that will end this archaic practice once and for all.”

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Chief Defender Celebrates Budget Increase with City Council Members

PHILADELPHIA–Chief Defender Keisha Hudson was joined today by Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson (Second District) and Maria Quiñones-Sanchez (Seventh District) for a press conference to celebrate the Defender Association’s $5.8 million budget increase in the new City of Philadelphia’s Fiscal Year 2023 Operating Budget, which started July 1. All of the funds from the budget increase will be used to raise salaries for Defender attorneys and non-attorney staff. 

“We want to take this opportunity to thank City Council, particularly Councilmembers Johnson and Quiñones-Sanchez, for making this increase a reality,” said Hudson.

Hudson credited Councilmember Johnson for helping to secure much-needed City Council support for the increase. “At a time when we weren’t sure exactly how much City Council support we had for our budget increase,” she said, “It was Councilmember Johnson who took the lead in writing a support letter to the Mayor that was signed by 12 other members of City Council.”

Councilmember Johnson said his efforts to help secure the $5.8 million increase in funding were necessary to “guarantee a defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel in order to increase the fairness and likelihood of justice ultimately being reached in a criminal justice system.”

 “Our public defenders experienced unprecedented challenges throughout the past few years during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Johnson continued, “They have acted as first responders and continued to advocate for their defendants while putting their own lives at risk, never resting in the defense of their clients.” 

Hudson also thanked Quiñones-Sanchez for her public statements in support of increased funding for the Defender Association, saying, “Councilmember Quiñones-Sanchez was one of the leaders who publicly called for us to receive more funding at a time when advocating for defendants isn’t the most popular stance to take. But she and others understand that an unbalanced justice system is not only unfair, but ineffective at bringing meaningful public safety to our city.”

Lauren Farrell is Deputy Director for Region 9 of the United Auto Workers, the union who represents attorneys at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Farrell heralded the budget increase as a positive development as the Defender Association negotiates the first collective bargaining agreement with its attorneys. 

“Attorneys in the Philadelphia Public Defender’s office formed their union with the UAW to make positive changes in the office in order to better serve their clients,” she said, “The increase to the budget allows them to achieve a fair, equitable contract with living wages that will promote longevity within the office, and ultimately aid in the quality of representation for the indigent of our city. “

Legal Clerk Dharuba Cherry, who has been with the Defender Association since 1990, said the increase represents an acknowledgement of the important work done by attorneys and non-attorneys alike. 

“With or without a raise, I would still be a Defender for life,” Cherry said, “But knowing that our work is appreciated by our city leaders makes me even more proud and committed to the Defender Association.”

All of the participants in today’s press conference agreed that, while the budget increase is something to celebrate, more state funding is needed to ensure that public defenders across the Commonwealth have adequate resources.

“Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that provides zero state funding for indigent defense and that forces local governments to pick up the tab,” said Johnson, “Every year, our city operating budget should reflect important values and fight for those most in need.”

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Keisha Hudson on the Defender’s 2023 Budget Increase


City Council passed 2023 budget, which includes an additional $5.8 million for the Defender Association

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]PHILADELPHIA–“On behalf of the attorneys, staff and board of Defender Association of Philadelphia, I am extremely thrilled and grateful to City Council for voting on a budget that includes a $5.8 million increase to Philly’s public defenders. 

“Pay equity for our attorneys and non-attorney staff has been my priority since becoming Chief Defender. Looking at the criminal justice landscape during a time of crisis, it is imperative that the Defender is able to recruit and retain the lawyers, social workers and admin staff that keep our system moving. It is extremely gratifying to know that our calls for pay equity with other city agencies were heard by City Council. 

“I want to thank councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson and Maria Quiñones Sanchez for being the primary champions of our campaign to secure the additional funding, as well as the rest of City Council for their support. We also need to thank the dozens of community allies, activists, and family members of clients who lifted up our message on social media, testified, or called City Hall to advocate for more funding for our office. And finally, thanks to every Defender Association employee for sharing their stories and pictures, believing in and supporting our #FundPhillyDefenders campaign from the very beginning. 

“Even without the additional funding, the Defender Association would have continued on our mission to provide high-quality legal representation to our clients, and work with Philly’s community leaders to make a fairer, more efficient justice system. But this budget increase will help us to hold on to our experienced team members and attract the best new talent to our organization. We are optimistic about the future of public defense in Philadelphia.”

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