Statement of Purpose

The National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) engages all public defense professionals into a clear and focused voice to address the systemic failure to provide the constitutional right to counsel, and to collaborate with diverse partners for solutions that bring meaningful access to justice for poor people.

In 2013, fifty years after the United States Supreme Court recognized the right to counsel as “fundamental and necessary,” NAPD formed an inclusive association of public defense practitioners to address the tragedy of the unfulfilled promise of fairness in America’s criminal courts. Through affordable dues, relevant benefits and accessible real-life expertise, NAPD currently unites nearly 14,000 practitioner-members across the country into a cohesive and irrepressible community capable of bringing justice to a broken system.

NAPD is an association of practitioners. With no full-time staff, members are the heart and substance of the association. As public defense experts, NAPD has the intellectual capital, force of numbers and mechanisms for collaboration to lead the movement to finally deliver access to justice, as well as overcome the flawed policies that disenfranchise huge populations across specific communities – particularly communities of color. On a daily basis, NAPD members across all 50 states share their education materials, outreach plans, communications, technical assistance, amicus/litigation resources, policy positions, leadership skills, and research and analysis methods in order to leverage the tools for change for the people in the places that need them most. Stronger together, NAPD consolidates enormous talent, energy and potential for justice reform.

NAPD includes every professional who is critical to delivering the right to counsel: lawyers, social workers, case managers, investigators, sentencing advocates, paralegals, civil legal aid providers, education advocates, expert support, information technology gurus, teachers and trainers, financial professionals, researchers, legislative advocates, communications personnel, and administrative personnel. Our collective expertise represents state, county and local systems through full-time, contract, and assigned counsel delivery mechanisms; dedicated juvenile, capital and appellate offices; and through a diversity of traditional and holistic practice models.

You can access the original concept paper, drafted during the period immediately around the very first NAPD meeting in October 2013, in Dayton, Ohio.

For more information, explore NAPD’s Foundational Principles.


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