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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