On March 18, 1963, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court laid the foundation for our nation’s public defense system. In their ruling the Court made clear that providing counsel to those facing criminal charges was a “fundamental right, essential to a fair trial.” Today we continue to fight to make the constitutional promises of counsel and of a fair trial realities.
Gideon in 60 Video Campaign
Defense lawyers fight every day to protect the rights and interests of both individual clients and the community. Listen to the voices of public defense share their stories about the work they do, the role they play, why they do this work, and the ways in which they serve their communities.
Lend your own voice - record a video sharing:
- What inspires you to do this work?
- End a common misconception people may have about public defense.
- Amplify the message of why public defense matters today.
Social Media Toolkit
Join NACDL in celebrating #Gideonat60 by sharing on social media your recognition and appreciation for the tireless work done by public defenders and court-appointed counsel across the country.
Like the images you see? You can celebrate public defense yourself with these amazing graphic art images. Tag us on social media and check out our toolkit for inspiration.
Public Defense Op-Eds
Public defense lawyers are powerful advocates in and out of the courtroom. Read about the power of public defense in these opinion articles.
Have a story to share? Our communications team stands ready to help you bring your voice to life through an op-ed.
Continue reading below
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
Public Defense Scholarships
It is critical to ensure public defense lawyers have access to high quality training. Through generous grant funding, NACDL is able to offer scholarships to help defray the costs of registration and travel. Interested in our scholarship program?
Want to help support training opportunities for public defense lawyers? Make a donation to NACDL’s Foundation for Criminal Justice.
Everyone has theright to have a skilled and zealous advocate when they face a criminal accusation. However, in many states and localities people are left waiting months or more to have a lawyer assigned to their case. Through our amicus work and direct litigation, NACDL works to ensure the right to counsel is protected, advocating for the prompt appointment of counsel.
In cooperation with WACDL, the NYU Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law, and Winston & Strawn, NACDL filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin to redress the state’s inability to timely provide access to counsel.
The past decades have seen growth in the use of systemic litigation to address underfunded, understaffed, under-resourced, and overloaded public defense systems. Read more about systemic litigation across the country.
1962-2023: Still Fighting for the Dream - Gideon Graphics
Show your love and support for public defense lawyers; highlight the power of public defense to change lives and change communities; or demonstrate your public defender pride with our Gideon anniversary graphics.
Like the graphics? Download these and more
Questions about NACDL's work in Public Defense, contact Director of Public Defense, Bonnie Hoffman.
Defenders Becoming DAs: Unpacking the Tension in Our Community
On January 27th, 2022, NACDL partnered with the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD), Gideon’s Promise and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) to host a conversation about public defense, elected prosecutors, and the power to transform the criminal legal system. The discussion featured Professor Angela J. Davis, Distinguished Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law; Jonathan Rapping, Founder & President, Gideon’s Promise; and Manohar Raju, San Francisco Public Defender; and Akhi Johnson, Acting Director, Reshaping Prosecution, Vera Institute for Justice.
Transforming America’s Criminal Justice Landscape Must Include Public Defender Overhaul, WDET, May 26, 2021.
A New Generation of Prosecutors is Leading the Charge to Reimagine Public Safety, Data for Progress, November 2021.
For the People: A Conversation with Larry Krasner, Brennan Center for Justice and John Brademas Center of NYU, May 25, 2021.
Johnson, Akhi, What’s in a Name? A Small Step Prosecutors Can Take to Build a More Humane System,Vera Institute of Justice, July 24, 2020.
Davis, Angela J., Reimagining Prosecution: In Search of the True Progressive, 3(1) UCLA Criminal Justice Law Review (2019).
Davis, Angela J., The Progressive Prosecutor: An Imperative for Criminal Justice Reform, Fordham Law Review Online 87, 8 (2018).
Rapping, Jonathan, The Power to Transform is Stronger than the Power to Punish: Public Defenders are the Key to Equal Justice, Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal, Vol. 6 (2017).
Rapping, Jonathan, Who’s Guarding the Henhouse? How the American Prosecutor Came to Devour Those He is Sworn to Protect, Washburn Law Journal, Vol. 51 (2012).
Race and Public Defense (SCJN 2021)
When people think of public defense, they often think of it as a service provided in the context of criminal representation. However, historically lawyers who represent indigent defendants have sometimes served a hybrid function as both legal advocates and community organizers.
- Kenitra Brown, Founding Board Member & Criminal Justice Committee Co-Lead, Power in Action; Staff Attorney and Director of Engagement, The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center
- Emily Coward, Project Attorney, North Carolina Racial Equity Network, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government
- Johanna Jennings, Founder & Executive Director, The Decarceration Project
- Kimberly O'Neil, CEO, Giving Blueprint; Founding Director, Power in Action
- Moderated by: Monica Milton, Public Defense Counsel, NACDL
Race + Criminal Legal System: Public Defense
A discussion with Matthew Clair, PhD of Stanford University as we dissect his recent book Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court (Published by Princeton University Press, November 2020), moderated by Travis County Chief Public Defender Adeola Ogunkeyede and joined by Porsha-Shaf’on Venable, Supervising Attorney at the Bronx Defenders and Director of Membership for the Black Public Defender’s Association.
- Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court by Matthew Clair
- Matthew Clair and Amanda Woog, Courts and the Abolitionist Movement, 110 Cal. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022)
- Unequal Before the Law: How did we end up with our current system of public defenders? by Matthew Clair, The Nation (December 14, 2020)
- Alexis Hoag, Black on Black Representation, 96 NYU L. Rev. (forthcoming 2021)
- Shaun Ossei-Owusu The Sixth Amendment Façade: The Racial Evolution of the Right to Counsel, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1161 (2019)
- Do Public Defenders Spend Less Time on Black Clients?, by Maurice Chammah, The Marshall Project (May 2, 2016) (there are some studies, etc. within this article to look at as well)
- Andrea Lyon, Racial Bias and the Importance of Consciousness for Criminal Defense Attorneys, 35 Seattle U. L. Rev. 755 (2012)
- L. Song Richardson and Phillip A. Goff, Implicit Bias in Public Defender Triage, 122 Yale L.J. (2013)
- Gonçalves, Walter, Narrative, Culture, and Individuation: A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Race-Conscious Approach to Reduce Implicit Bias for Latinxs, 18 Seattle J. Social Just. 333 (2019)
- Race Matters: The Impact of Race on Criminal Justice (2017) (free video content)
- Race Matters II: The Impact of Race on Criminal Justice (2019) (free video content)
- Race Matters III: The Intersection of Race and Criminal Justice (2020) (recorded CLE product)
- Black Public Defender Association, follow on Twitter: @BPDA_Justice
- Principles for Creating Sustainability in Public Defense, National Association for Public Defense (March 2021)
- "Public defender, prosecutor shortages prevail in Wisconsin,"
- "You have the right to a lawyer, but public defenders note a lack of resources, respect,"
- "'Right to an attorney' only goes so far. Our war on crime leaves injustice in its wake.,"
Public Defense in The Champion
- Book Review: Free Justice by Sara Mayeux
The Rule’s All Right
Defend the Confidentiality of Financial Affidavits Required for Representation Under the Criminal Justice Act
Criminal Justice Act Form 23 (financial affidavit) is a confidential document. Some judges have concluded that CJA Form 23 should be a public document. Federal public defender Stephen Sady writes that the defense bar should reject any diminishment of the privacy protections in Rule 49.1.
- Book Review: Gideon’s Promise by Jonathan Rapping