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What Should National Public Defender Day Look Like?

You wake up. “Take That Sh*t to Trial” is playing on the radio. You go to get your coffee and the server refuses to accept your money, “Free coffee for PD's,” he says with a smile. You turn on your computer at work and the Google Doodle of the day is Judy Clarke on trial. Your Facebook feed explodes with the latest viral video: tears streaming down his face, a celebrity raves about the public defender who changed his life and allowed him to be a successful reality show contestant today. When you get to court, the hallways are filled with people wearing, “I <3 my PD” buttons. Back at the office, there's free pizza for everyone courtesy of civil legal services lawyers, with a big card saying, “Thanks to your knowledge and compassion, our shared clients are able to stay in the USA, keep their homes, and retain custody of their children. P.S. Come to the state capital next week to help us lobby for a civil Gideon.” 
If you're reading this you're probably a member of NAPD. Or somehow related to me (Hi Mom!). NAPD membership includes all the practitioners who fight for the rights of indigent criminal defendants: paralegals, investigators, social workers, mitigation specialists, and even lawyers. You might have paid dues to be an individual member or you might work for an office that's an organizational member. For example, because Legal Aid Society in New York City is an organizational member, all our investigators, paralegals, social workers, and staff attorneys in the Criminal Defense Practice and all attorneys who represent youth in delinquency proceedings are NAPD members. 




As members, you get access to free webinars and My Gideon, an on-line resource of briefs, articles and videos from around the country. You also get to decide the priorities and actions of this organization. 




NAPD leadership has proposed celebrating our work with a National Public Defender Day on March 18th, the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. Since we spend our days questioning authority figures, you know it would irk us to celebrate a day, even one in our honor, on the terms of “leaders.”  As NAPD members, it's up to us to decide what a National Public Defender Day should really look like. 

Picture it:

You wake up. “Take That Sh*t to Trial” is playing on the radio. You go to get your coffee and the server refuses to accept your money, “Free coffee for PD's,” he says with a smile. You turn on your computer at work and the Google Doodle of the day is Judy Clarke on trial. Your Facebook feed explodes with the latest viral video: tears streaming down his face, a celebrity raves about the public defender who changed his life and allowed him to be a successful reality show contestant today. When you get to court, the hallways are filled with people wearing, “I <3 my PD” buttons. Back at the office, there's free pizza for everyone courtesy of civil legal services lawyers, with a big card saying, “Thanks to your knowledge and compassion, our shared clients are able to stay in the USA, keep their homes, and retain custody of their children. P.S. Come to the state capital next week to help us lobby for a civil Gideon.” 

Admittedly, I'm dreaming big. 

This is where you come in. Is Public Defender Day for us? Like a public Treat Yo Self day?  Is it for our clients, so they can hold their head high knowing they've got the sharpest, most dedicated, most skilled representation? Or is it for the public (not our immediate families--  Hi Dad!) to help them understand our work?

Or should we take this as an opportunity to identify a challenge we all face (like workloads, police misconduct, or cash bail) and start an organizing campaign?

Please email ideas to Heather Hall (Heather@publicdefenders.us), tweet them @NAPD2013, comment on our FB page, or e-mail Heather and ask to join our Core member listserv. Finally we invite you all to participate in a webinar Friday, February 19th at 1:00 p.m. EST.

I'll kick things off with a more realistic idea. We post selfies of our feet next to our clients' feet on social media and use it as an opportunity to publicize the work we do. This echoes a blog post by Sajid Kahn where he reflects upon the battle scars on his shoes and the stories they tell. 

You tell me, what should National Public Defender Day look like?

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