The National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) engages all public defense professionals into a clear and focused voice to address the systemic failure to provide the constitutional right to counsel, and to collaborate with diverse partners for solutions that bring meaningful access to justice for poor people.

In 2013, fifty years after the United States Supreme Court recognized the right to counsel as “fundamental and necessary,” NAPD formed an inclusive association of public defense practitioners to address the tragedy of the unfulfilled promise of fairness in America’s criminal courts. Through affordable dues, relevant benefits and accessible real-life expertise, NAPD unites 25,000+ practitioner-members across the country into a cohesive and irrepressible community capable of bringing justice to a broken system.

NAPD is an association of practitioners. As public defense experts, NAPD has the intellectual capital, force of numbers and mechanisms for collaboration to lead the movement to finally deliver access to justice, as well as overcome the flawed policies that disenfranchise huge populations across specific communities – particularly communities of color. On a daily basis, NAPD members across all 50 states share their education materials, outreach plans, communications, technical assistance, amicus/litigation resources, policy positions, leadership skills, and research and analysis methods in order to leverage the tools for change for the people in the places that need them most. Stronger together, NAPD consolidates enormous talent, energy and potential for justice reform.

We are guided by our Foundational Principles, listed below. Expanded explanation of the Principles are available HERE

  • Principle 1:  Competent and Effective Public Defense Lawyers Must Be Provided for the Fair Administration of Justice
  • Principle 2:  Public Defense Must Be Independent of Judicial and Political Control
  • Principle 3:  The Public Defense Function Must be Administered and Overseen Statewide
  • Principle 4:  The Expense of the Criminal Justice System Is a Government Obligation That Must Not Be Imposed on Defendants
  • Principle 5:  Workloads of Defense Attorneys Must Always Be Reasonable
  • Principle 6:  Training and Continuing Education are Essential for Providing Competent and Effective Defense Representation
  • Principle 7:  Appropriate Supervision of All Public Defense Lawyers and Other Public Defense Professionals Is Essential
  • Principle 8:  Public Defense Representation Should Be Client Centered and Holistic
  • Principle 9: The Duty of Public Defense Lawyers Is to Provide Clients Quality Legal Representation Consistent with Rules of Professional Conduct and Prevailing Professional Norms
  • Principle 10:  Public Defense Providers Must Seek to Change the Pervasive Cultural Prejudice that Stigmatizes and Marginalizes Poor People
  • Principle 11:  Competent and Effective Defense Representation Is Necessary to Eliminate Mass Incarceration
  • Principle 12:  Public Defense Providers Must Address Disparate Treatment of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Justice Systems
  • Principle 13:  The Use of Punitive Measures Against Persons Who Have Mental Disorders or Other Types of Cognitive Impairments Must End
  • Principle 14:  Public Defense Lawyers and Public Defense Professionals are Essential Participants in Achieving Justice Reforms
  • Principle 15:  Unity and Collaboration of Public Defenders and Public Defense Professionals Are Essential in Achieving Defense Reforms