The majority of Defender Association cases fall under the Adult Trial Practice Units: Municipal Court, Waivers, and Majors. The Municipal Court Unit handles preliminary hearings, misdemeanors, and some felony trials, the Waivers Unit handles most felony trials that go before a judge, and the Majors Unit represents clients whose cases are decided by a jury.
Defenders in the Appeals Unit represent clients in Pennsylvania appellate courts and on occasion, the United States Supreme Court. Appeals attorneys have more than a century of combined practice experience.
Through the collaborative efforts of our Mental Health Division, hundreds of cases have been monitored for treatment with prosecution eventually withdrawn. Other cases have had non trial dispositions requiring mental health supervision and treatment.
The unit represents most respondents at involuntary civil mental health commitment hearings and fights for the rights of the mentally ill in its appeals from administrative and trial rulings.
Our attorneys appear in Miscellaneous Criminal Motions Court and represent defendants in a variety of matters including: Bail petitions, Return of property, Habeas corpus hearings, Writ of certiorari hearings, Extradition hearings, Other miscellaneous motions and petitions.
The services in our Motions division are not limited to the above list. Please contact us if you have a unique matter that requires legal action.
Through innovative programs like Early Bail Review – a part of the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, diversion programs, social services, and other connections, this team of lawyers, social workers, and other staff focus on reducing mass incarceration by supporting clients before trial.
Through collaboration with criminal justice partners, the unit creates, improves, and expands diversionary programs as alternatives to mass incarceration.
Attorneys represent clients at county and state detainer hearings and at county and state parole or probation violation hearings before judges and before the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. Defenders also support clients who currently on parole or probation.
The Defender’s team of social workers focuses on connecting our clientswith supports and services at the front-end of the criminal justice system by developing community-based treatment plans for a quicker identification and focus on underlying challenges. By meeting with clients at the earliest possible point in the case, the Social Services unit supports informed defense advocacy to humanize our clients at every stage of the criminal justice process.
A highly-skilled team of trial lawyers, investigators, mitigation specialists, and administrative professionals make up the Defender Association Special Defense/Homicide Unit, which provides representation in high-publicity or complex cases as well as felony homicide and death penalty cases.
We ensure that the legal rights of children are protected and respected at every phase of the criminal justice process.
We recognize that children are different from adults and that they should be represented accordingly. Our specially-trained, multidisciplinary team of professionals work together to address the legal challenges and provide holistic representation.
The Child Advocacy Unit (CAU) represents Philadelphia’s children from birth to twenty-one years old.
The CAU protects and promotes the legal interests of children and strives to serve their best interests. This unit works with children who have open dependent petitions in Philadelphia Family Court, victims of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or abandonment, truancy cases, children facing mental health challenges, and children who need supports as they transition into adult life.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that with few exceptions, juveniles cannot be subject to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Our Juvenile Life Without Parole/ JLWOP Unit provides intensive representation, comprehensive mitigation, and reentry service planning for Philadelphia clients sentenced to life without parole as juveniles.
Our Juvenile Special Defense Division / JSDD was created based on the recognition that representation of juveniles who were charged with complex or serious crimes, often with high publicity exposure, required more specialized attention.
A “Direct File Juvenile” is someone who is under 18, but at least 15 years old who has been arrested and processed as an adult, and who will initially be treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
This specialized defense team is made up of: Experienced Lawyers; Three Social Workers; Two Investigators; Two Administrative Staff.
The Defender’s Policy Unit works with community groups and other stakeholders to identify and advocate for systemic changes to our criminal justice system and to ensure that client and community needs are reflected in criminal justice policy. Through our strong community partnerships, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and policy development work, the Defender supports better outcomes in the court room by pushing for necessary reform.
The Police Accountability Unit (PAU) litigates complex police misconduct issues, provides training and assistance to trial attorneys to improve outcomes for Defender clients, and works to effectuate policy and legal changes related to systemic police misconduct.