The State of Public Defense During a Crime-Focused Election Year

 On Gideon Day, public defense chiefs from across the U.S. will hold a virtual press briefing to commemorate the establishment of an accused person’s right to counsel and to challenge misleading narratives about crime

WHAT: Public Defender chiefs from across the United States will gather for a virtual press briefing, co-sponsored by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, to discuss misleading narratives about crime, the effect of those narratives on criminal justice reform policies, and to propose tangible solutions for furthering community safety. The virtual event will be held on Gideon Day, Monday, March 18, the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which recognizes the Constitutional right to public defense for people who cannot afford counsel. The press briefing features a panel of leading public defender chiefs as well as a community equal justice advocate who will explore the critical role of public defense in advancing community safety and advocating for equal access to legal representation for all. 

WHEN: Monday, March 18 at 1-2 p.m. Eastern / Noon-1 p.m. Central / 10-11 a.m. Pacific

Please register here and a Zoom link will be sent to you. You can also register at tinyurl.com/nlada-gideon.

WHO: Panelists include: 

  • April Frazier Camara, president and CEO, National Legal Aid & Defender Association (Introductory remarks)
  • U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas (recorded remarks)
  • Alec Karakatsanis, founder, Civil Rights Corps (moderator)
  • Robert Jones, director of community outreach and lead organizer, Orleans Public Defenders 
  • Stan Germán, executive director, New York County Defender Services 
  • Keisha Hudson, chief defender, Defender Association of Philadelphia
  • Mano Raju, elected chief defender, San Francisco Public Defender 
  • Brendon Woods, chief defender, Alameda County Public Defender


This press briefing is sponsored by the NLADA, the American Council of Chief Defenders, the Black Public Defender Association, the Gault Center, San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Defender Association of Philadelphia, Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, Orleans Public Defender’s Office, and New York County Defender Services. This event is part of NLADA’s ongoing initiative, “Fighting for the AccUSed: The Public Defender Campaign for Safe, Secure Communities.” The Fighting for the AccUSed campaign is changing perceptions about public defenders in communities and the press. It also seeks to build public support for the passage of the federal EQUAL Defense Act (HR 3758) and the Quality Defense Act (S.850), and urges the Biden Administration to support other federal, state, and local efforts to fund public defense.

Public defenders are integral parts of the communities they serve and include social workers, investigators, community engagement professionals, and lawyers. Nationwide, about 80 percent of individuals who are accused of crimes in the legal system are represented by a public defender. 

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), founded in 1911, is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. NLADA has pioneered access to justice at the national, state and local levels, playing a leadership role in the creation of public defender systems and other important institutions from The Sentencing Project to the Legal Services Corporation. A leader in the development of national standards for civil legal aid and public defense, NLADA also provides advocacy, training, and technical assistance for equal justice advocates across the country.