Defender Statement on Confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson

PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia joins public defenders across the nation in celebrating and congratulating Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Jackson’s confirmation is historic, not only because she’s the first Black woman to be a Supreme Court Justice, but also the first public defender to achieve this honor. 

“The confirmation process, while fraught at times, was important, because it started a dialog about the role of public defenders in our nation’s justice system. During the confirmation hearings, some U.S. Senators tried to paint Justice Jackson and other defenders as ‘soft on crime.’ But in reality, a strong public defense is necessary to ensure fair treatment in court, regardless of defendants’ ability to pay for legal counsel. No one is more dedicated to ensuring that our justice system works for everyone than public defenders.

“We are excited and hopeful about how Justice Jackson’s unique experiences will shape future rulings from the Supreme Court, as well as the national dialog about the critical role of public defense in our justice system.”

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Keisha Hudson on “Shortchanging” Public Defender Budget


Not providing the Defender Association with the requested budget increase will shortchange everyone who relies on a fair and efficient justice system. 


PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia is extremely dismayed that the Mayor’s proposed budget does not include any increase to Defender’s budget or value the services we provide to the community.

“At a time when the number of court cases is on the rise, our office was hoping to be able to provide needed salary increases to give us parity with other city agencies, and help us attract and retain more attorneys and non-legal staff. 

“This is an issue of fairness and efficiency. The Defender’s administrative staff is paid much less on average than their counterparts in just about every other City of Philadelphia agency. Many of our staff members have told us they need to take second jobs to make ends meet.

“The inherent unfairness of paying predominantly Black and Brown employees less than any other agency or office speaks for itself. But it’s particularly galling when we know that nearly every city agency received increases under the Mayor’s budget proposal, and many of these increases are significant. 

“Like our attorneys, our administrative and support staff are critical to the Defender’s ability to process cases and provide the best possible representation for our clients. The low wages and increasing workload are driving staff and attorney attrition in our office, and are an impediment to hiring replacements when they leave us to work at other agencies or companies. That’s why addressing pay parity has been a top priority as we negotiate our first collective bargaining agreement with the union representing our attorneys. 

“The economic injustice for our staff is compounded by the impact on our justice system. A Defender office that can’t adequately keep pace with the increasing court cases will bog down our courts. It leads to more people languishing in jail waiting for their trials, which contributes to the existing social and economic crises for their families and communities. These conditions only contribute to the violence and public safety crisis that Philadelphia is currently experiencing.

“In the coming days, we will continue to publicly and privately advocate for the funding increase we requested in our budget submission to the City. We will continue to fight for parity for our attorneys and staff. And we will continue to argue that failure to adequately fund the Defender Association not only impacts our clients, but everyone who counts on our judicial system to fairly and efficiently dispense justice.” 

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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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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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September 30: “Free Our Elders” Press Conference

M E D I A   A D V I S O R Y

September 29, 2021
George Jackson, Defender Association  |  267.765.6768  |
William Lukas | Abolitionist Law Center |


A new PA Senate Bill offers a chance at freedom to aging and sick people in Pennsylvania’s prisons.

PHILADELPHIA–On September 30, the Defender Association of Philadelphia will stand with representatives from Straight Ahead, the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC), the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI), elected leaders, community allies, and the loved ones of incarcerated people for a press conference in support of SB 835, a PA Senate Bill that offers a chance at freedom for aging and sick people in prisons.
The geriatric and medical parole bill, introduced by Senator Sharif Street, would make  any person 55+ years of age who has served 25 years (or half their sentence, whichever comes first) eligible for parole. The bill also provides parole opportunities for people who have a chronic physical or mental illnesses.
PA Senator Sharif Street; PA Senator Nikil Saval; PA Rep. Rick Krajewski;
Marcie Marra, CADBI; Ms. Yvonne Newkirk, CADBI; Marthea Brown, CADBI; and John Thompson, ALC/CADBI
“Free Our Elders” Press Conference in Support of SB 835
Thursday, September 30, 12:00 p.m.
Philadelphia City Hall, Octavius Catto Statue
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The Defender Association of Philadelphia is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides high-quality, client-centered legal representation, connection to social services, and re-entry support to adults and juveniles in Philadelphia. Our organization represents nearly 70 percent of adults and juveniles arrested in the City of Philadelphia.

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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Acting Chief Defender Alan Tauber on Derek Chauvin Murder Trial Verdict

PHILADELPHIA–“There are numerous lessons to be drawn from the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, not the least of which is the need to enact reforms that greatly reduce unnecessary, often deadly interactions between the police and people of color.
“As public defenders that primarily serve Black and Brown communities, we see many of our clients needlessly confronted and detained by police officers for minor offenses that aren’t considered criminal when they occur in white neighborhoods. Further damage is inflicted by a justice system that is too quick to accept the testimony of police officers and repeatedly fails to hold police officers to a higher level of accountability to communities.
“Justice can’t be served unless we closely evaluate and rethink the role of police in public safety, and work alongside community members to develop and implement fair and effective justice system practices that ensure equal treatment for every citizen.” 
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Keir Bradford-Grey to Step Down As Chief Defender

PHILADELPHIA–Keir Bradford-Grey will be stepping down from her role as Chief Defender. Bradford-Grey announced her resignation in a letter to the Defender Association’s Board of Directors on March 15.
Bradford-Grey began her legal career at the Defender, where she worked from 1999 to 2007. She returned to lead the organization in 2015. In her resignation letter, she recounted some of the highlights of her tenure as Chief Defender, including success in redefining the role of public defenders, and efforts to empower communities to play an active role in justice system reform.
“Over time, we have changed the function and the narrative of how our work contributes to enhanced public safety–evolving what had historically been a reactive role to our criminal justice system into an expanded service, with a proactive role in our justice practices,” she wrote. 
“The Defender’s mission has always been to provide the best representation for our clients. Keir greatly enhanced that mission during her time as Chief Defender,” said Paul Hetznecker, President of the Defender Association’s Board of Directors, “Thanks to Keir, the Defender Association has been able to establish an unprecedented collaboration with the community, one of the keys to real criminal justice reform.”
During her tenure as Chief, the Defender Association forged closer working relationships with City leaders, providing insights on effective strategies for justice system reform. She writes, “These efforts have gained us the respect and value we deserve from our funders, who supported and increased our budget to allow us to develop our presence in multiple areas of growth, from our national profile to our local community service.”  
Hetznecker: “Thanks to Keir’s tireless efforts, the Defender has been able to secure much-needed financial support and achieve increased recognition for the outstanding representation of indigent clients provided by Defender lawyers and staff.”
Keir Bradford-Grey’s last day as Chief Defender will be April 15, 2021. First Assistant Defender Alan Tauber will serve as the Interim Chief Defender while the Board conducts a national search for the next Chief Defender.
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