For much of my life, I wake up early on New Year’s morning and write in my journal.  I look at the entry from the year before and look over what I intended to accomplish.  Then I set out hopes and dreams for the next year. 

So it was that I finished the end of 2015 thinking of what NAPD has done and where we’re headed in 2016. 

What we’ve accomplished thus far.  NAPD was just a spark of an idea when 40 passionate reformers met at Dayton Law School in September of 2013. An “association” was born.   Since that day, this is what we in association with one another have done:

  • Almost 11,000 members from all 50 states have joined NAPD
  • 81 organizations, including thirteen statewide systems, have become part of the community
  • Held 86 webinars that were then made available on MyGideon
  • Created the public defender library known as MyGideon and populated it with hundreds of hours of training videos and written resources now available for free to all members
  • 306 creative people wrote blog posts reacting to the criminal justice system around them
  • Issued a major statement on workloads and the imperative of keeping time in order to attack excessive workloads
  • Wrote a unique ethics opinion on the duty of public defense social workers not to report outside of the attorney-client privilege
  • Spoke out on predatory fines and fees, including a call for the elimination of money bail
  • Condemned the non-indictments in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner
  • Wrote policy makers in Fresno, California, warning against the impact of inadequate resources and crushing caseloads on attorney performance
  • Sent a letter to the Carson City, Nevada City Manager opposing the county’s consideration of flat fee contracts for public defenders
  • Wrote New York Governor Cuomo encouraging his involvement in the constitutional right to counsel issued raised in the Hurrell-Harring lawsuits addressing excessive workloads
  • Called on the Missouri Supreme Court to change rules related to jailing persons with outstanding warrants that have been decimating the poor community in St. Louis County and elsewhere
  • Wrote a letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighting efforts in Ohio and Colorado to correct debtor’s prisons there
  • Signed on to the #thisstopstoday campaign initiated in NYC after the Eric Garner killing
  • Advocated in the Denver Post for adequate resources for representing capital clients
  • Wrote a guest opinion in the Denver Post opposing the death penalty for persons with mental illness
  • Signed on to a statement by Law4BlackLives supporting the family of Tamir Rice, calling for a federal investigation, and condemning the prosecutor for his uneven-handed handling of the grand jury
  • Issued a new tool to assess quality of juvenile defense representation systems
  • Posted thousands of articles on our Facebook page and Twitter feeds on breaking or significant criminal justice issues
  • Joined Orange County Public Defenders asking for a federal investigation of the prosecutor’s and sheriff’s office in the snitch scandal
  • Supported public defense leaders in Sioux Falls, Cincinnati, Montana, Bloomington, Pittsburgh, Birmingham through the NAPD Strike Force
  • Educated 60 public defense leaders on dealing with excessive workloads at the NAPD/DPA Workloads Institute
  • Educated 60 public defense leaders at the NAPD Executive Leadership Institute at Valparaiso Law School
  • Sent a letter of support to House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte for the National Commission and National Center for Right to Counsel Initiative
  • Strongly opposed a Louisiana prosecutors’ initiative to place capital indigent defense under an oversight commission consisting of judges and prosecutors
  • Sent a statement on misdemeanor representation to Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Charles Grassley
  • Supported the Maryland Public Defender’s efforts to control excessive workloads
  • Filed an amicus brief in support of the Hinds County (Miss.) public defender’s successful actions to end local judges’ efforts to exclude public defenders from his courtroom
  • Filed amicus briefs advocating for mandatory advice of counsel regarding deportation to noncitizens, another on whether probable cause can be aggregated, another advocating that the denial of the right to testify is a structural error, and another advocating for the First Amendment right of counsel in their motion practice
  • Created a Systems Builders Committee that has provided support and mentoring to defenders in Montana, Tulsa, San Antonio, and Philadelphia
  • Determined that an association of public defense professionals could accomplish a great deal through two part-time staff and a bunch of wonderful volunteers.  The work of Alex Bassos (MyGideon), Jeff Sherr (webinars and blogs), and Isaac Merkle (website) has been awesome
  • Thanked Tim Young for his excellent leadership as Chair of our equally excellent Steering Committee

Where we’re headed in 2016.  NAPD is a grass-roots organization that is attuned to what is happening and where our members want us to go.  In that sense, predicting what we will have accomplished a year from now is difficult to determine.  At a minimum, I know that we’ll be at least involved in

  • Putting on 20-40 cutting edge webinars from some of the best educators among our community, and then placing them on the ever-expanding MyGideon
  • Educating public defense boards and commissions on best practices through the holding of 4 webinars
  • Educating 100 public defense managers and supervisors at Valparaiso University Law School March 6-9 on how to be better client-centered leaders
  • Attacking the primary public defense problem, excessive workloads, by developing workload standards, developing necessary software needs for timekeeping, and finding solutions to the demand side of the workload problem
  • Becoming involved on the ground with defender organizations in need of help through our Systems Builder’s Committee
  • Fred Friedman’s helping out some defender chief that needs his intervention and good counsel
  • Rolling out a juvenile assessment tool to influence public defense organizations all over the country to improve their juvenile representation
  • Issuing an ethics opinion on whether a prosecutor can secure a warrant for a public defender’s file
  • Speaking out on injustice when and where it occurs

Whew!  Look at where you’ve been, and where you’re going. 

We are 11,000 strong.  OK, I must admit that I have a vision of 11,000 public defenders marching into the Capitol demanding an end to excessive workloads and an oppressive criminal justice system.  Perhaps that won’t happen in my lifetime.  But this I know: much will happen as a result of your collective efforts.  Imagine what change we can bring to the criminal justice system when we speak with one voice!

Happy New Year!