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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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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