Archive November 2016

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Talking to Jurors about Race

It has never been more important for defense attorneys to consider how to approach the topic of racial attitudes during voir dire. Since the subject of race in policing, crime, and punishment figures prominently in today’s public discourse, this topic will be on jurors’ minds whether you discuss it or not. If you avoid the issue where it is relevant, you may increase the likelihood that implicit or explicit racial bias will play a role in the jury’s determination of your client’s case. 

NAPD Statement - November 27, 2016

Our reaction to the political changes of today is clear: to maintain and strengthen our efforts to protect our clients, through litigation and reform, from restricted civil liberties, mass-incarceration, debtor’s prisons, racial profiling, harsh immigration policies, the school-to-prison pipeline, harmful collateral consequences and the many other injustices faced by vulnerable communities in our society. 

A Thank You Letter to My Clients

To my clients - former and present, those fond of me and those not so much, those who I've represented for a few days and those I've represented for months - thank you. This is my second Thanksgiving as a public defender/attorney but my first after carrying any meaningful case load.

The Longest Email Goodbye Ever

I became a public defender because of my love for black people, because I am a helper, and because I had this burning desire to be a litigator. My people were disproportionately suffering in this racist system and trials fascinated me. I envisioned myself a mash-up of Maxine Shaw, Claire Huxtable, and my favorite Auntie. 

Stand With Them: Zohra Bakhtary

Her crime? Asking the judge for leniency for her client. AKA fulfilling her constitutional obligation to her client. AKA doing her job. Reading reports about the case were shocking, the transcript even more so. But, to hear the story from Zohra herself is a compelling example of the kind of disdain public defenders face every day, simply for upholding the constitution. 

Maryland Communities Paid More Than $256 Million in Corporate Bail Bond Premiums Between 2011 and 2015, Often in Cases Where There Was Ultimately No Finding of Wrongdoing

In a report released today, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (OPD), in partnership with economics professor Arpit Gupta, Ph.D., and technology executive Douglas Swanson, provide data showing the extent to which presumptively innocent Marylanders are forced to pay for their freedom while a criminal case is pending. 

Concerts for Indigent Defense: Be a Part of It!

Concerts for Indigent Defense is being launched to address this problem – and it can work right out of the gates. Concerts for Indigent Defense will invite and enable musicians from across the country to designate their concerts on the weekend of March 18, 2017 as a “Concert for Indigent Defense,” to honor the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. 

Live Now. Litigate Later.

While NAPD members were speaking and discussing the slides, MOBB United members added commentary via chat. Mothers typed: “Wow. Seeing this makes it real,” and “I want her for a lawyer!” Among the enthusiastic feedback, there were sobering comments. One mother lamented, “that’s a lot for my untrained 18 year old son to carry,” upon listening to all the factors to consider before deciding whether to consent to a search or exercise one’s rights. 

Patti Lee Wins National Youth Law Award

I have known Patti Lee for over thirty years as a friend, co- worker, and "boss”. (It drives her crazy when I call her that because she is so innately egalitarian.) I have worked with her on many difficult and complex cases and watched how she becomes a " mom" for her clients. I have also collaborated with, and  observed her developing innovative policy, programs, and respectfully training / mentoring young attorneys as they start out in their careers as juvenile defenders. 

Introducing the Fair Punishment Project

The Fair Punishment Project uses legal research and educational initiatives to ensure that the U.S. justice system is fair and accountable. As a joint initiative of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute, we work to highlight the gross injustices resulting from prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective defense lawyering, and racial bias, and to highlight the unconstitutional use of excessive punishment. The Project also closely partners with The Bronx Defenders, which provides invaluable strategic, research, and writing assistance.
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July 1, 2017: NAPD announces Save the Date for 2017 Workloads Institute, to be held at SLU Law School (St. Louis, MO) on November 17-18, 2017. Click HERE for a brochure with details and faculty!

April 16, 2017: 60 Minutes' Anderson Cooper features the Orleans Public Defenders and NAPD General Counsel in a substantive segment about public defenders' excessive workloads, pervasive injustice, and the obligation of defenders to resist the "conveyer belt" of mass-incarceration. You can watch the compelling segment HERE 


On March 18, 2017 - the 54th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainright decision - NAPD published its Foundational Principles, which are recommended to NAPD members and other persons and organizations interested in advancing the cause of equal justice for accused persons.