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48 Years Ago...

Yep—it was that long ago.  I had graduated from college in 1969, and after some difficult times wondering whether I would be drafted before I was called up for VISTA, I left for Montevideo, Minnesota, where I was a VISTA “planner.”  It was an amazing year, both there and in Owatonna, Minnesota.  I lived on $180 a month, organized a buying cooperative of poor farmers, and learned more than I ever dreamed.  I learned a great deal about myself, living alone in a cabin outside Dodge Center.  I learned about poor people—their resilience, their creativity, the struggles they have.  I learned that I was one dental bill away from being poor.  And I learned that I wanted to be a “poverty lawyer.”
Yep—it was that long ago.  I had graduated from college in 1969, and after some difficult times wondering whether I would be drafted before I was called up for VISTA, I left for Montevideo, Minnesota, where I was a VISTA “planner.”  It was an amazing year, both there and in Owatonna, Minnesota.  I lived on $180 a month, organized a buying cooperative of poor farmers, and learned more than I ever dreamed.  I learned a great deal about myself, living alone in a cabin outside Dodge Center.  I learned about poor people—their resilience, their creativity, the struggles they have.  I learned that I was one dental bill away from being poor.  And I learned that I wanted to be a “poverty lawyer.”
 
There was no legal services at the time.  But there were VISTA lawyers, living on the same stipend I was.  I don't recall why I was in court at the time, but there I was, and I saw a lawyer stand up next to a poor person and advocate for him.  Until that moment, I had no idea what I was going to do with my English degree.  Like many 23 year-olds, I knew only that I wanted to do something significant and real, and that I wanted to work with poor people.  That VISTA lawyer not only stood next to the poor person, he stood up for them.  And at that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. 
 
I headed off to law school, and in my third year, I looked around for a local legal services corporation.  I was a visiting student at the University of Kentucky.  There were no local legal services organizations, but there was the Department of Public Advocacy in nearby Frankfort.  I didn't know much about being a public defender, but knew they represented poor people. I signed on as a law clerk.  I was Ed Monahan's (present Kentucky Public Advocate) law clerk for my third year, and then I was hired by Public Advocate Jack Farley to work in appeals.  I was sworn in as a lawyer in 1977, and have been hooked ever since.  I served as an appellate lawyer, a trial lawyer, the director of a new trial office, a regional manager, and then Public Advocate for twelve years. 
 
It's been a helluva ride that began 48 years ago in a courtroom in rural Minnesota.  It's good to remember during this National Public Defense Week.  

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NAPD News

December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.
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October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

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July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. 
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January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE
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