What can I do about that?
NAPD began as people looking for answers to a lot of question public defenders were having. What do we do about workloads? Who can do something about the excessive fines and fees our clients are paying? Turnover—it’s killing us, can anyone do something about that? Our organization is too poor to have its own training director, so how are we supposed to educate our people? I’m a defender in a small county, so who can I talk to about an issue I’m having? These were just a few of the questions that drew 40 people to Dayton, Ohio, in September 2013 to talk about establishing a new public defense organization. From the beginning, NAPD has tried to create itself to answer those questions and others that would come up over the next almost 6 years. The below is not exclusive, but hopefully can alert you to what NAPD has to offer.
Training. From the beginning, NAPD has been a training organization. Over 250 webinars have now been presented, all of them stored on MyGideon. Those webinars focus on litigation, capital punishment, forensics, wellness, leadership, and many other topics. You can find upcoming webinars here: https://www.publicdefenders.us/calendar_list.asp
On another level, if you are interested in public defense education, consider being on the Education Committee, chaired by Lorinda Youngcourt. You can learn more about this committee here: https://www.publicdefenders.us/educationcommittee
I am looking for a webinar I missed. So where are those webinars you mentioned? Log into www.publicdefenders.us and click the MyGideon tab.
Scholarships. I cannot afford to send my staff to training. Are scholarships ever offered? A new charitable organization has been established, and one of its primary purposes is to raise money to contribute to public defenders who cannot afford to attend training. You can learn more about the NAPD Fund for Justice here: https://fundforjustice.org/
Systems Builders. Steve Hanlon, NAPD’s General Counsel, began to use the phrase “intellectual capital” to describe NAPD from the first time he walked into an NAPD meeting in Chicago in 2014. Much of that intellectual capital is located in the Systems Builders Committee, chaired by Bill Ward, Minnesota Public Defender. The Systems Builders consists of present and former public defender leaders interested in reforming public defense systems. They can provide technical assistance upon request. A recent project provides help to local entities who are hiring a public defense chief and don’t know where to start, or who want to bring expertise to bear on the decision. If you need technical assistance, contact Ernie Lewis at email@example.com, or Bill Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about this committee, look here. https://www.publicdefenders.us/systemsbuilders
Excessive Workloads. Nothing has animated NAPD since its inception quite as much as excessive workloads. This problem has been around for decades and is continuing in many parts of the country. There is a committee committed to exploring this problem, making policy statements about it, and eventually solving it. Like the Systems Builders Committee, this committee also provides technical assistance to organizations that want expert help in solving their individual workload issue. For more on the Workload Committee, see the website here: https://www.publicdefenders.us/workoadcommittee
Recruiting. At this moment in time, many defender organizations are having trouble with turnover and in turn finding attorneys to replace those leaving. While a lot might be contributing to this issue, there are people in defense organizations interested in exploring it with others in our community. They have banded together in a listserv to discuss what their issues are and to share in possible solutions. If you want to be on this listserv, contact Ernie Lewis at email@example.com
Sexually Violent Predators. There is a specialty practice in some defender organizations involved with defending persons the state has stamped as “sexually violent predators.” It is a lonely practice, and is for the most part somewhat rare. Yet, if you are in a state with a law that allows persons to be locked up forever after their sentence is completed due to some faux diagnosis, then you might want to be on the SVP listserv. Contact Ernie Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Indigent Defense Commissions. Not all organizations in NAPD are those full-time organizations staffed with state employees. Many states provide services using private lawyers. Many of those states have a board or commission providing oversight, establishing standards, and assisting local jurisdictions. Because they have similar problems, they have come together in a group called the IDC Workgroup. Organized by Geoff Burkhart of the Texas IDC, this group meets regularly to discuss common issues. They will be meeting in the next few months to discuss excessive workloads. Find out more about this group here: https://www.publicdefenders.us/specialworkgroups
Leadership. Many of the original founders of NAPD were leaders in their states. Improving leadership among defender systems became an early task of NAPD. We have now held five leadership institutes across the country beginning at Valparaiso Law School in 2015 and moving to the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy in 2017. Leaders, managers, supervisors of all stripes, includes lawyers, investigators, social workers, and admins, have gathered and shared problems in a small group setting with their peers. The next one will be in Austin, Texas October 14-17. To find out more, go to this link: https://www.publicdefenders.us/ev_calendar_day.asp?date|EQUALS|10/14/2019&eventid|EQUALS|152. Right after that one will be another Executive Leadership Institute held in Los Angeles December 8-11th. See this link to find out more about it. https://www.publicdefenders.us/ev_calendar_day.asp?date|EQUALS|12/8/2019&eventid|EQUALS|153
Investigators and social workers. NAPD has now held three special trainings for social workers and investigators in Denver, Indianapolis, and Biloxi. The next one will be held in Seattle, Washington September 10-13th. Find out more here: https://www.publicdefenders.us/ev_calendar_day.asp?date|EQUALS|9/10/2019&eventid|EQUALS|150 and https://www.publicdefenders.us/ev_calendar_day.asp?date|EQUALS|9/10/2019&eventid|EQUALS|151
Teams. A new training has been offered for teams of lawyers, social workers, and investigators, who are learning to take a team approach to offering mitigation at the sentencing stage. The next one of these is in Boise, Idaho August 19-21. Find out more here: https://www.publicdefenders.us/ev_calendar_day.asp?date|EQUALS|8/19/2019&eventid|EQUALS|154
Communicators. A relatively new position in defender organizations has been that of communicator, PIO, or the like. If you want to know more about how communicators in NAPD are talking with one another, see this link or contact Heather Hall at email@example.com, and on the website at: https://www.publicdefenders.us/specialworkgroups
Students. NAPD is working with law student groups and law student career centers to launch an online recruiting webinar series in the fall (geared towards graduating law students), which will be shared nationally. Member response to this invitation has been enthusiastic, and if you want to be involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Job postings. One of NAPD’s quiet services is the job site. Organizations can post their job information at this site. You will be surprised at how often this is being used. https://www.publicdefenders.us/jobs_search.asp?proc|EQUALS|y
Giving back. Norm Lefstein said one day at the Workload Conference held in 2017 in St. Louis that NAPD needed a place for persons to contribute and even receive a tax break. That began the discussion that resulted in the NAPD Fund for Justice. If you want to learn more, contact Executive Director Ed Monahan, at email@example.com. For more information, visit their website here: https://fundforjustice.org/ or the NAPD website here: https://www.publicdefenders.us/content.asp?contentid|EQUALS|199.
Ethical problems. It has been rare that public defenders need assistance on an ethical issue, but it happens. For that, NAPD has Ethics Counsels who have produced several ethics opinions that have been of assistance to defenders. See this link for more information: https://www.publicdefenders.us/formalethicsopinions
Help on appeal. One of NAPD’s most active committees has been our Amicus Committee chaired by Emily Hughes and Louis Sirkin. This committee has helped us join many defender organizations help clients in their quest for relief. See this link to find out more: https://www.publicdefenders.us/amicus
The judge is going to hold me in contempt and I need help. There is a small group of lawyers who love to help other lawyers who are in a jam, whether it is with a threat of contempt, or some or kind of threat to an organization’s independence. For more about the NAPD Strike Force, look at this link: https://www.publicdefenders.us/specialworkgroups
Where can I find other resources? NAPD began the public defender library known as MyGideon in our earliest days. It has grown now to tens of thousands of resources, including past webinars, statements, motions, and the like. You must be a member to gain access to these resources, but it’s worth it! Log into www.publicdefenders.us and click the MyGideon tab.
I’m ticked off and want to be heard. Are you a writer and would like others to read your stuff? Do you have an opinion that you’d like to be heard? NAPD has published hundreds of blogs since our beginning, and we’re always looking for more. It doesn’t have to be long, or even particularly important. If you have something to say of interest to you and your colleagues, write it up and send it to Ernie Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or Heather Hall at email@example.com.
NAPD is a real member organization, by and for public defense professionals. Hope this quick trip through who we are and what we provide will be helpful. Let us hear from you!
Ernie Lewis, NAPD Executive Director
Heather Hall, NAPD Engagement Director
Jeff Sherr, NAPD Training Director