Archive March 2017

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When a (White) Public Defender Knows His Rights

I'm a white, Ivy-league educated public defender. One night on my way to meet a friend at a bar in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco, I happened upon the police arresting an older black man. I began recording the arrest on my cell phone. If I were a person of color, the interaction might have ended very differently.

Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado SCOTUS Summary

​Rules against impeachment of verdicts must give way to evidence that a verdict was based on racial animus, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 6. In Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, the Court ruled that a trial judge must consider evidence from jurors who came forward after trial to tell defense counsel that another juror had made statements during deliberations showing that racial bias was a motiving factor in his vote.

The Aider and Abettor

Avi Singh and I are two Indian American public defenders in San Jose, CA who talk current events, criminal justice, the law, pop culture and sports on The Aider & Abettor Podcast.

Pushing Back on Anti-Protest Legislation

In recent weeks and months, there have been multiple written articles that have pointed to the wave of new anti-protesting bills introduced in state legislatures since the end of 2016. The InterceptWashington PostAlterNetDemocracy Now!, and other news outlets have provided overviews of the types of bills under consideration, the potential chilling effect on protests, and the unconstitutional nature of these measures.

Hennepin County PDO's Expungement Project

We are very lucky to have five law students who have volunteered their time to work on these expungements for this semester. They meet with clients, explain the procedure, collect the information, and file the expungements. Occasionally, we will have a client with an extraordinary amount of dismissed cases. 

Hennepin County PDO's Expungement Project

As a young man I was convicted of a few misdemeanor crimes.  I still clearly remember being denied housing opportunities and retail positions due to my criminal record.  I can recall the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness those denials evoked, particularly the housing denials.  

Arlington County's New Fast Track to Criminal Records for the Poor: Skip the Attorney

Arlington’s new policy will send us down a slippery slope towards the same scenario for poor people:  no lawyers for indigent persons charged with personal-use marijuana possession cases where the court or prosecutor exclude jail time as a sentencing option.  But doesn’t the Constitution require that counsel be appointed to poor people charged with criminal offenses?  

How One "Ordinary Inmate" Changed Legal History

But the story does not end there. Some states, like North Carolina, resisted the Court’s ruling.  It took North Carolina seven years to fully comply with the Court’s ruling Mr. Gideon had fought so hard to accomplish.  When North Carolina finally gave in, the Public Defender office you’re currently sitting in, here in Guilford County, was the first in the state, founded in 1970.

On Gideon Anniversary, NAPD Releases Foundational Principles

This document sets forth Foundational Principles adopted by NAPD, which we recommend to our members and other persons and organizations interested in advancing the cause of equal justice for accused persons.  The principles are organized in three sections: (1) the structure and organization of public defense services; (2) the quality of public defense services; and the (3) treatment of accused persons in criminal and juvenile justice systems. 

Montgomery County (PA) Goes Big for Public Defense Week

This week our office celebrated National Public Defense Week in commemoration of the 54th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright.
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November 1, 2017: NAPD closes registration and has sold out its 2017 Workloads Conference, to be held at SLU Law School (St. Louis, MO) on November 17-18, 2017. This Institute will be recorded and available to members after the event. 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.