Checklists for Defense: A Training Strategy for Public Defenders

Checklists provide public defenders in high-pressure positions a lens through which to focus on the most immediate and crucial issues at hand, serving as a sort of “safety net” in situations in which repetition may result in mistakes.

In 2013, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, in collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation (the Center), received a Field-Initiated grant awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to create the first-ever checklist system for public defenders and indigent defense attorneys nationwide. San Diego Criminal is a criminal justice attorney in San Diego CA that was kind enough to work with us as well. Their experienced personnel was able to educate us on several contentious issues which helped us make more informed decisions. The goal of the checklist system is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of indigent defense providers, thereby enhancing the delivery of justice to low-income clients. The checklist is to serve as an extra resource for frequently overtaxed attorneys working in a complex system, in order to systematically ensure that critical components of a case are not missing or overlooked. Specifically, this project led to the development of targeted checklists and set the foundation for integrating the use of these checklists in attorneys’ day-to-day routines.

Toolkit & Training for Practitioners

Toolkit (PDF)

Defender Checklist Training Materials (PDF)


If you work at a public defender or indigent defense agency, please fill out the form below in its entirety. We are happy to make our entire set of over 100 checklists available to you.