The National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) held its first workloads conference in Lexington, Kentucky in August of 2014.  Back then, we were just beginning the first phase of what Norman Lefstein has called “the new breed” of workload studies, featuring a rigorous application of the principles of the Delphi method to the workload of a public defender. 

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID) and RubinBrown, one of the nation’s leading accounting and consulting firms, had just published The Missouri Report, available at, and that workload study had been described as “one of the most sophisticated, data-driven analyses of defender workloads to date” in a law review article. 

Upon the release of the report, ABA President James Silkenat had said: “It can now be more readily demonstrated than ever before that for decades the American legal profession (note, he did not say “public defenders”) has rendering an enormous disservice to indigent clients and the criminal justice system in a way that can no longer be tolerated.”

The Missouri Report followed upon, and was occasioned by the Missouri Public Defender’s victory in the Missouri Supreme Court in State v. Waters, 370 S.W.3d 592 (Mo. Banc 2012) on July 31, 2012, in which that court had expressly held that when a statewide public defender office can show that it has so many cases that its lawyers cannot provide competent and effective representation to all of its clients, public defenders may (indeed, are required to) refuse appointments, and judges may not appoint them to represent additional clients.  A year later, in 2013, the Florida Supreme Court upheld that same principle in Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida v. State, 115 So. 3d 261 (Fla. 2013).

Missouri’s public defender then, Cat Kelly, and Miami’s public defender then and now, Carlos Martinez, led those fights, courageously standing up to the judiciary and the legislature and the Governors in those two states, and insisting that they would no longer countenance the plague of excessive workloads in public defense.  Today, Missouri Public Defender Michael Barrett is courageously leading his troops as he convinces more and more Republican legislators in Missouri that the data and analytics he is presenting them in his budget, based on the recommendations in The Missouri Report, should drive state appropriations for his office.  And Carlos Martinez is steadfastly enacting reforms in his office based on the victory he won in the Florida Supreme Court.

Our 2014 workloads conference in Lexington, Kentucky generated a lot of excitement and discussion.  Two of the participants, Doug Wilson in Colorado and Jean Faria in Louisiana, came out of that conference with the conviction that they were going to do a workload study in their respective states. They have both now done so, and The Louisiana Report and The Colorado Report are now each available at  Another public defender, Mary McElroy in Rhode Island, also led her defenders with a workload study in that state, and it, too, is now available at  Larry Landis and Derrick Mason in Indiana are now leading that state’s effort to conduct yet another workload study in that state.

Something’s going on here!  We want to talk about what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, what we can do with these studies, where we go from here, and a whole host of questions that this “new breed” of workload study has generated.  Plans are underway for at least a half dozen additional workload studies.  So we’ve assembled the people with the most knowledge and the most experience in this endeavor and we are bringing them the St. Louis University School of Law November 17-18, 2017 to speak, listen, debate and discuss this new development in public defense.

After NAPD President and Workloads Committee Co-Chair Mark Stephens delivers some opening welcome remarks, Steve Hanlon, NAPD’s General Counsel and Workloads Committee Co-Chair who has led ABA/SCLAID’s efforts in these studies, will give an overview of what we have learned about workloads from Missouri to New Mexico, where Bennett Baur has led that public defender system in a case refusal case that was heard by the New Mexico Supreme Court on July 26, 2016. 
NAPD Special Advisor Norman Lefstein, who has written and testified extensively on the subject, will discuss a lawyer’s ethical obligation to control workloads. Dean Lefstein brings to this task almost four decades of experience in indigent defense, including a stint as a public defender at PDS in Washington, D.C.

Missouri Public Defender Michael Barrett and New Mexico Public Defender Bennett Baur, who are both involved in litigation in their respective states, will then discuss the push and pull between meeting your ethical obligations and holding onto your job.  (Hint: try appointing a Governor who has fought you at every turn for years, and for whom you used to work, to represent a poor person charged with a crime!)

Doug Wilson (Colorado) Ed Monahan (Kentucky) and Lurene Kelley (Louisiana) will each discuss how to develop and implement effective legislative strategies, reduce the demand side of the indigent defense equation, and media strategies to advance the public narrative of a public defender office and the community it serves.

Dawn Deaner (Nashville) and Derwyn Bunton (New Orleans) will discuss effective workload control measures that they have each implemented in Nashville and New Orleans that did not include litigation.  These are creative strategies (short of the nuclear war of litigation) that every public defender can consider and try to implement in their offices.  And they prepare the way and lay the groundwork for legislative advocacy and ultimately, in some cases, litigation.
Bob Boruchowitz and Norman Lefstein will have the session that we are seriously considering selling tickets for.   (Just joking).  Is there a hard number limit to the number cases that can be handled?  If so, is it the NAC Standard?  Should there be a number at all?  Norm Lefstein has a proposal that has something for everybody.

Mark Stephens and Isaac Merkle will discuss the external and internal benefits of timekeeping, including why, how, software, how much time it takes, how to get staff on board, and developing a weighted caseload, including how to factor trials.  Mark and Isaac both have extensive experience working with these data systems and have gone deep into the weeds.  They promise they won’t dumb it down, but they will sum it up.

Finally, Carlos Martinez and Michael Barrett, both of whom have been involved in litigation, will discuss how to develop an effective litigation strategy.  Both of these guys are veterans of many battles and this promises to be a great session to get us fired up and back into battle.

Most importantly, there will be plenty of breakout sessions in small groups where all conference participants will have the opportunity to engage with these leaders and bring their own experiences to the conference for discussion and debate.

Hotel accommodations are available at the St. Louis City Center Hotel (855-537-47700.  Mention the NAPD to get the $125 rate.  To register for the conference, contact Laura Chambers in Mark Stephens’ office:  or 865-594-3024.  The cost for the conference is: $400 for nonmembers, $350 for members, and $300 for members sending 3 or more.

See you in St. Louis!