We firmly believe that that the following foundational principles are essential to help guide all of us in the public defense community as we move forward together not only to address systemic failures of our criminal and juvenile justice systems but also to ensure that lawyers, with the help of vital support staff, deliver effective, competent and diligent representation in accordance with the Constitution and rules of professional conduct.


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