Defender Association Supports ACLU-PA’s Indigent Defense Lawsuit

PHILADELPHIA–The Defender Association of Philadelphia supports ACLU-PA’s lawsuit against Pennsylvania for inadequate state funding for indigent defense. In Gideon v Wainwright, the Supreme Court ruled that every individual is entitled to legal counsel in court, regardless of ability to pay. But many public defender offices are so underfunded that they can’t provide proper legal representation. This isn’t just about money—it’s about justice and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, gets the constitutionally required effective representation.


We appreciate Governor Josh Shapiro’s leadership in adding a $7.5 million line item for public defense in the state budget. It’s a positive step, but public defender offices still rely almost entirely on county funding. This creates a system where the quality of defense varies widely depending on where you live, leading to unequal justice.


Underfunded public defender offices struggle with overwhelming caseloads and insufficient resources, making it nearly impossible to meet the constitutional mandate for effective counsel. This not only harms those accused of crimes but also erodes trust in our justice system. ACLU-PA’s lawsuit aims to change this by pushing for statewide reform and adequate funding for all public defender offices.

We urge Pennsylvania to act now and ensure that every public defender office in the Commonwealth has the resources needed to provide effective representation. We need a justice system that works for every Pennsylvania citizen.


# # #

2024 Father’s Day Bailout

This Father's Day, the Defender is working with Frontline Dads to bring home as many Father's as possible!


If your loved one's bail is under $50,000 and they have NO other detainers, they may qualify to be freed through the Father's Day Bailout program!


To apply for the Father's Day Bailout, please fill out the form below:


Fathers Day Bailout

Information form for participating in Frontline Dads' Fathers Day Bailout

Step 1 of 2

Client Name(Required)
Date of Birth(Required)

Case number & Bail Info

Please provide separate case numbers and bail amount for each case (if there's more than one).
Does the client have children?(Required)
Use whole numbers and separate with a comma if more than one child (example: 5, 12, 17)

A Better Plan for Kensington

The Defender Association fully realizes that immediate action is needed to address the conditions in Kensington. But the City’s May 8 “sweep” of homeless people signals a return to draconian and ineffective crime and drug policies. We are also troubled by the lack of communication we have received from the city in advance of these actions. This information vacuum is particularly concerning as it potentially compromises our ability to serve our clients.


Read our full statement here. 


Click on any of the menu items below to learn more about the Defender's perspectives on what's really needed in Kensington:


Because we are responsible for legal representation and mitigation on behalf of these community members, we have been able to gain unique insight into their needs. For example, we know that:


Approximately 18% of our clients each year call Kensington Home.


Between 2017 and 2022, our office represented 11,803 adults who lived in the neighborhood.


The majority–53%—of our Kensington clients are White-Hispanic; 36% are Black Non-Hispanic; and only 11% of our clients in the district were White non-Hispanic.


They are more likely to have been involved in the child welfare system and more likely to be arrested multiple times in the five-year period than peers who reside in other districts;


18% of District 7 cases involve an arrestee with a child welfare history; and


Slightly over half of all arrests made in District 7 are people who have been arrested at least once before in the last five years.


Many obstacles to improving safety and quality of life are largely systemic. Our clients who reside in and near Kensington have experienced years of disinvestment and institutional discrimination. 

    Relying on the criminal legal system to solve a public health crisis doesn’t work–the same strategy has been tried–and failed–before;


    The “jail vs. treatment” strategy is an ineffective one, with more unintended harms than derived benefits; 


    There is a question as to whether we even have enough treatment beds


    The “sweep” threatens to overwhelm the court and jail system, not to mention stretching the caseloads of public defenders


    This tactic will likely shift the current problems to surrounding neighborhoods that aren't’ receiving the same level of attention and focus

    Our direct experience demonstrates that we, as a city, and an office, need to do more to serve our clients who reside in and around Kensington. The Defender Association Supports:


    Voluntary treatment programming;


    Investments in affordable housing;


    Pathways to employment post-recovery


    We are working to prioritize maintaining the integrity of Black and Brown families; 


    We’re building our capacity to use a place-based response system to trigger social service referrals for people who:


      • have multiple arrests in a one-year period, or 


      • reside in and around Kensington and other neighborhoods with high levels of community violence.


    The Defender currently staffs all the child welfare courtrooms and continues to advocate on behalf of young people seeking return to their families;


    We’ve established a Youth Advisory Panel;


    Our Junior Defender program provides 10 young people with a summer internship opportunity and next year we will prioritize slots for our previously dependent clients.


    We’re working to secure additional funding to: 


      • provide young people involved with the dependency systems opportunities to serve as peer mentors for our current child clients; 


      • provide every young person we represent with an individual social worker; and


      • provide housing navigators and educational attorneys for our youthful clients exiting placement or aging out of the foster care system

    We’re continuing to explore strategies to safely reduce the prison population


    Our office is working to embed trauma-centered lawyering to our practice and partnering with community organizations to serve our clients with substance use disorders and trauma histories


    We are currently pursuing grant funding to: 


      • expedite substance abuse and mental health evaluation for our incarcerated clients who often experience unnecessary delays in evaluations; and 


      • to embed re-entry navigators for our clients pending release on supervision from the county jail.

    2024 Junior Defender Internships

    Are you (or do you know)  a high school student who will be 18 before June 10, 2024? Do you want to learn about our criminal legal system while getting PAID? Apply to our Junior Defender Internship Program!


    Junior Defenders will learn about our justice system through workshops; observing Philly’s courts in action; taking field trips and more. Click here to learn more about Junior Defenders. Watch the video below to hear from last year’s interns!



    There are TWO internship sessions: June 10 – July 19, 2024; and July 22 – August 30, 2024.


    Interested? Use the online form to apply TODAY for this internship opportunity! Application Deadline is Tuesday, April 30!
    Questions? Contact Tamira McCurdy:


    powered by Advanced iFrame. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

    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.



    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.




    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).



    90th Anniversay Gala Sponsors & Supporters

    The Defender Association of Philadelphia would like to thank all of the individuals, law firms and organizations who made our 90th Anniversary Gala possible, and a night to remember!

    Platinum Sponsors:

    Law Offices of MJ Snyder
    Troutman Pepper
    Cozen O'Connor


    Silver Sponsors:

    Paul & Missy Hetznecker
    Philadelphia Bar Association
    Catherine Recker & Matt Pappajohn
    Hangley, Aronchick, Segal. Pudlin & Schiller
    Ballard Spahr
    Welsh & Recker
    Marsh McLennan Agency
    Jonathan & Diane Penneys Edelman
    Welsh & Recker


    Bronze Sponsors:

    Kairys Rudovsky Messing Feinberg & Lin
    Morgan Lewis Bockus
    Jed Melnick
    Weir Greenblatt Pierce
    Klehr Harrison
    Saul Ewing
    Buchanan Ingersoll
    James M. Becker
    Independence Blue Cross

    Brass Sponsors:

    Bob and Betsy Fiebach
    David Richman
    Ahmad Zaffarese LLC
    Dilworth Paxson LLP
    Kathryn Cacciamani
    Maron Deering
    Luis Ortiz
    Phyllis Subin
    Duane Morris
    SKA Law Group
    Kreischer Miller
    Community Behavioral Health
    David Walker
    Reliable Copy

    Star Sponsors:

    Roberta & Robert Liebenberg
    Seer Interactive
    Nancy Winkelman
    Deborah Gross
    Nialm Sanghvi
    Lorena Ahumada
    Brian Collins
    Patrick Egan
    Sam Silver
    Thomas Kenny

    Donors & Supporters:

    Marc Alan Bookman
    Michael and Jackie Schwartz
    John Holloway
    Lyn Davis
    William Penn Foundation
    Gregory Sleet
    Suzanne Young
    Robert Yablon
    Shelley Shaw
    Marianna Rossman
    Brandi McLaughlin

    Statement on Alexander Spencer Shooting

    PHILADELPHIA—”The Defender Association of Philadelphia sends its condolences to Alexander Spencer’s family, friends and community. We join the public call for a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident that led to his death on January 26.


    “As public defenders, we know it’s a mistake to jump to conclusions before all the evidence has come to light. But what’s been reported so far sounds too similar to tragedies that have played out in Philly and across the country–right down to the police narrative that seems to shift with every new piece of information revealed.


    “Every time there’s an incident like this, it creates more mistrust between the police and the neighborhoods they’re sworn to protect. If we want our communities to be safe, we need to explore and invest in interventions that help reduce, not increase, the number of interactions between law enforcement and our communities.


    # # #

    Chief Defender Congratulates Mayor-Elect Cherelle Parker

    PHILADELPHIA–“On behalf of the staff and Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, I congratulate Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker on becoming the first woman–and first Black woman–to be elected Mayor of Philadelphia.


    The Defender Association looks forward to a positive and productive partnership with the Parker administration, as well as our new City Councilmembers, as we work to address the challenges facing our public defenders, clients and communities.

    # # #

    2023 Voter Info Resources

    Election Day is November 7, 2023. There are some very important Municipal and Judicial races this year, and the outcome will likely shape the future of our city and our justice system.


    Here are some websites with some helpful information about the various races and candidates* Inform yourself about the candidates and remember to vote on November 7!



    *We are sharing this information as a resource. The Defender Association of Philadelphia does not endorse candidates in elections. 

    Follow us: @PhillyDefenders