Event Calendar

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Course: The Critical Examination of Client Mitigation and Our Role in Uncovering It!

Start Date: 9/19/2023 5:00 PM EDT
End Date: 10/24/2023 7:00 PM EDT

Venue Name: Online through NAPD's LMS System

Organization Name: National Association for Public Defense

Jeni Benavides
Email: events@publicdefenders.us
Phone: (502) 219-6149


PRICE $390


Please see this guide if registering under your NAPD membership or with a group from your office. 
This six week course will have 6 live meetings on Tuesdays, 5:00-7:00 pm Eastern | 4:00-6:00 pm CT | 3:00-5:00 pm MT | 2:00-4:00 pm PT
There are six live class sessions via Zoom (9/19, 9/26, 10/3, 10/10, 10/17, and 10/24).
There will be certificates of attendance and participation offered upon request.
Course length and time expectations for participants
This course will last six weeks meeting on Tuesdays. Each week will involve:
  • Some course videos and reading to be done at your convenience (~ 1 hour)
  • Participate in course online forum (~ 30 minutes)
  • Live instruction and small groups ( ~105 minutes) (6 meetings - see below)
Each meeting will include a large group presentation and small group discussion
Led by Stephanne Thornton, Cessie Alfonso, Megan Leschak, Denise Smith
Course Description:
Mitigation specialists functioning as mitigation professionals possess clinical and information-gathering skills and training that most lawyers simply do not have. They possess the time and ability to elicit sensitive, guarded, often humiliating evidence from defendants (e.g., family sexual abuse) that the defendant may never have felt comfortable disclosing. They have the clinical skills to recognize such things as congenital, mental, or neurological conditions, to understand how these conditions may have affected the defendant’s development and behavior. Mitigation specialists astutely use their skills to identify the most appropriate experts to examine the defendant or testify on their behalf or create alternative sentencing plans to serve a defendant’s underlying treatment needs. We will use a full case problem, or you can bring your own case to utilize throughout the training.
This training course will provide participants with strategic training which includes the intersectionality of and use of self in mitigation development, client-centered representation advocacy, and in-court and out out-of-of-court assessments, interdisciplinary teamwork, report writing, and the inclusion of special topics to explain a defendant’s history. etc. The capstone project at the conclusion of the course will require you to prepare a report and/or presentation.
Target Audience:  
Sentencing Advocates, Client Service Professionals, Mitigation Specialist/Experts, and attorneys who have to do solo mitigation.
The course is designed for those relatively new to the profession or looking for a refresher. 
Stephanne Thornton
Stephanne Cline Thornton is the Clinical Director for the West Virginia Judicial and Lawyer Assistance Program, and owner of Transform Legal, a consultancy focused on mitigation, training, and sustainability. She is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and Master Addiction Counselor focusing on access to trauma and substance use disorder treatment to ensure the health and well-being of affected individuals. Recognizing the prevalent intersection of stress, substance use, and mental health conditions with some practitioners of the law, Stephanne believes in health, sustainability, and mindful practices to ensure those in the helping professions care for themselves to better care for those they are serving. She approaches her work with clients, lawyers, social workers, and mitigation specialists through a mitigation lens.
Stephanne earned a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University Candler School of Theology, and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Georgia. She has been clinically licensed as a social worker and addictions counselor since 2004 and additionally holds certificates as Certified Addiction Counselor Level III, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider. Stephanne’s clinical training background is in trauma, and she is on the Trauma-Informed Care Network Speakers Bureau and presents on trauma, substance use, and self-care across the state and at national conferences.
Cessie Alfonso
Cecilia "Cessie" Alfonso is a nationally recognized expert in forensic social work, domestic violence and organizational development in the area of cultural competence and valuing diversity. She is founder and president of Alfonso Consultants, Inc. which for the past 30 years has provided social work and psychosocial assessments to the clients of civil and criminal attorneys throughout the United States, and internationally. As a mitigation specialist, she revered as a pioneer in our field. She and her associates have conducted over 700 mitigation investigations since she began providing services. She is an activist who marched against the Vietnam War, for civil rights, women, lesbian, and gay rights. Currently she is a board member of Citizen Action of New York. She served as a founding member and first chair of National Association of Sentencing Advocates (NASAMS). In 2019. the organization created the “Cessie Alphonso” Award in her honor for the work she has pioneered in the mitigation and sentencing field.
Megan Leschak
Megan is the co-owner of Context Mitigation, a firm that provides mitigation services for clients in both state and federal courts. Megan began her forensic social work career at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore City where she was awarded a Soros Open Society Institute Fellowship to highlight for the courts the impact of structural racism, poverty, and violence on defendants. She subsequently worked as a mitigation investigator in the Delaware Federal Defender Capital Habeas Unit and as the social work supervisor for the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender. Megan earned her MSW from the University of Maryland where she co-created the course Racism and Racial Equity in Social Work Practice. Megan has trained attorneys, investigators, and social workers at forensic conferences across the country.
Denise Smith
Denise launched Smith Consulting Group, LLC in 2011, providing Forensic Social Work and Mitigation services focused on defense-based advocacy –giving a voice to truth and restoring dignity to the accused.   Believing in second chances, Denise centers her mitigation practice to primarily serve post-conviction clients sentenced as juveniles and younger adults serving life in confinement.
With 20 years of forensic social work and mitigation experience, Denise lends her expertise to social work education as a Forensic Field Education Instructor with the  Maryland Office of the Public Defender and Field Education Liaison with the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
As a teacher and mentor, Denise devotes her work to shaping and influencing student professional growth in understanding systemic oppression and cultural humility correlated with the criminal justice system and mass incarceration. Additionally, she presents and provides coaching to mitigation professionals around the country. Social justice, defense-based advocacy, social work education, and mitigation professional development inspire and highlight her practice.  
NAPD doesn't apply for CLE or track attendance to provide certifications for our live webinars, conferences and online courses. This helps us keep the price as low as possible and avoids the disruption of the flow of the training required by many states to verify attendance.

Online Registration

Registration is Closed
Closed: 9/8/2023 5:00 PM

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