Staff

Ernie Lewis, Executive Director

Ernie Lewis received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University in 1969, a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt University in 1973, and a Juris Doctoris (J.D.) from Washington University in 1977.  He was a VISTA Volunteer in Minnesota in 1970.  He was with the Department of Public Advocacy from 1976 until 2008 in several different capacities, including appellate lawyer, local assistance branch manager, directing attorney of the Richmond Trial Office, and Regional Manager for the Central Kentucky Region.  He was appointed Kentucky Public Advocate in 1996, overseeing the statewide public defender system, and served in that capacity until 2008 when he retired from state government.  Since 1985, he has been on the faculty of the National College of Criminal Defense located at Mercer Law School in Macon, Georgia. He served for two years as Chair of the American Council of Chief Defenders from 2006-2007. He has worked on indigent defense issues with various groups in Georgia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and Louisiana.  In 2000, he was named Outstanding Lawyer by the Kentucky Bar Association.   In 2007, he was given the Champion of Indigent Defense Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  In 2008, he was given the Chief Justice’s Special Service Award.  He received the Department of Public Advocacy’s Professionalism and Excellence Award in 2003 and the Nelson Mandela Award in 2009.  He is now active in teaching public defenders, consulting, representing an occasional client, and advocating for the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers before the Kentucky General Assembly.  Since January of 2014, he has been serving as the Executive Director of the National Association for Public Defense. 

Heather H. Hall, Development & Engagement Director

Heather H. Hall joined the National Association for Public Defense as a member in February 2014, and is currently its Development & Engagement Director. Prior to this role with NAPD, Heather was the Special Projects Advisor for the Louisiana Public Defender Board (Baton Rouge) from 2008-2014. From 2004-2008 Heather worked as the Director of the Louisiana Justice Coalition, a non-profit, sixteen-member coalition committed to public defense reform in Louisiana. In that capacity, she built a consensus of support around the American Bar Association Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, solicited media attention and support for reform, undertook a diverse public education campaign in all 64 parishes, and initiated community-oriented defense projects in select districts.? She started her professional work with the ACLU of Louisiana as their Legislative & Education Associate from 2002-2004. Heather received her Bachelor's Degrees in Religion and History from the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) in 2002.

Amanda Alvarez Thibeault, MyGideon Developer & National Resource Coordinator

Amanda's interest in criminal justice was first sparked when she met Glen Edward Chapman, an former death row inmate who was finally exonerated with the help of one of Amanda's college professors at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. After meeting Ed, Amanda vowed to fight for the little guy, the underdog, the dark horse. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Psychology in December of 2009, she attended Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. While in law school, she worked for Metropolitan Public Defender, as well as a variety of private defense attorneys. After graduating magna cum laude in May of 2013 and passing the Oregon State Bar Exam, Amanda began working with Metropolitan Public Defender from August 2013 to September 2015 as a full time trial attorney. She tried a wide variety of cases including misdemeanors, minor felonies, and major felonies. She obtained not guilty verdicts in both major felony sex crime cases that she tried, wrote a winning motion to exclude evidence in a murder case, and was one of the youngest attorneys to obtain a favorable Court of Appeals opinion in Oregon. Amanda left MPD in September of 2015 to move to San Diego, CA. In addition to her work with NAPD, she also works closely with Alex Bassos by helping to develop the capital resource section of MyGideon in order to provide better support to capital attorneys nationwide. Additionally, she contracts with a variety of private defense attorneys to provide legal research and writing support, and in the evenings, serves as an instructor to students seeking their associates degree in criminal justice. In her free time, Amanda can be found riding one of her road bikes, (indoor) rock climbing, searching for the perfect slice of cake, and watching her husband sing opera. 

Stephen F. Hanlon, General Counsel

Mr. Hanlon has a long history of handling public interest and civil rights cases.  In 1989, he founded the Community Services Team (CST) at Holland & Knight and for the next 23 years he served as the Partner in Charge of the CST, which during Mr. Hanlon’s tenure was the largest full-time private practice pro bono department in the nation. In 1997, Holland and Knight received the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award.  The American Lawyer described Holland and Knight as a "pro bono champion."  In 2006, Mr. Hanlon received the Chesterfield Smith Award from Holland & Knight, the firm's highest individual recognition given to a firm partner. Since his retirement from Holland & Knight at the end of 2012, Mr. Hanlon has confined his practice to assisting and representing public defenders with excessive caseloads. He now serves as General Counsel to the National Association for Public Defense in Washington, D.C. Mr. Hanlon was lead counsel for the Missouri Public Defender in State ex rel. Mo. Public Defender Commission, 370 S.W.3d 592 (Mo.banc 2012), which was the first state supreme court case to uphold the right of a public defender organization to refuse additional cases when confronted with excessive caseloads.  The Waters case has been described as a “watershed moment” in indigent defense.  Davies, Andrew Lucas Blaize Davies, “How Do We ‘Do Data’ in Public Defense?,” 78 Albany Law Review  1179. Mr. Hanlon was the Project Director for the American Bar Association in the critically acclaimed study of the workload of the Missouri Public Defender undertaken by RubinBrown on behalf of the American Bar Association, known as “The Missouri Project,” available at www.indigentdefense.org,  He currently serves as the Project Director for similar studies in several states.

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NAPD News

On December 28, 2016, NAPD published its Open Letter to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for his prosecution of Orleans Public Defender investigator Taryn Blume. A bedrock principle of our criminal justice system is that every citizen accused by the government of a crime starts with the benefit of the doubt – with a presumption that they are in fact innocent.  That right becomes meaningless if we do not uphold the equally important right of every citizen-accused defense team who fights for her cause; who digs for evidence of her innocence; who exposes the government when it hides that evidence.  The legitimacy of our criminal justice system depends upon defense lawyers and defense investigators doing their jobs, and doing them well, without fear of reprisal from a prosecutor acting more like a bully than the champion of truth and justice he is supposed to be.

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Last Chance to Register! The NAPD Executive Leadership Institute (ELI-2017) is almost full will will be held from 3:00 pm on April 2 through 11:45 am on April 5, 2017 at the Department of Public Advocacy training facility in Frankfort, KY. You can see more information and registration details HERE