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

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On March 2, 2017, NAPD released its Statement on Reducing Demand For Public Defense: Alternatives to Traditional Prosecution Can Reduce Defender Workload, Save Money, and Reduce RecidivismThere are more than 2 million people in jail and prison in the United States. This is a four-fold increase since 1980. This increase and the racial disproportionality among incarcerated people has led to alliances across the political spectrum to address the impact on people and on budgets.  As the new Coalition for Public Safety has put it, “Our country has an ‘overcriminalization’ problem and an ‘overincarceration’ problem — and it’s getting worse." NAPD authored this statement because there is a great opportunity to make transformative changes that can improve justice and save money.  A variety of organizations representing a wide spectrum of political views have joined together to end the systematic problem of overcriminalization and narrow the net of incarceration by reforming criminal codes.