Guiding Principles

NAPD staff, leadership and contributing members model these principles in their personal work behaviors, decision-making, contribution, and interpersonal interaction.

Accountability to Members

NAPD is committed to being a grassroots organization of public defender professionals. We believe that not only is no one else going to fix the many problems that plague public defense delivery around the country, but that we – the advocates in jails, in courtrooms, and in communities – are qualified experts to lead the effort for solutions for the crisis at hand. It is vital to the energy and credibility of NAPD that the association is intimately connected to the experiences and expertise of all public defender professionals and their clients. Our membership, committee structure, staff and leadership reflect member-driven initiatives and organic growth. There are no figureheads at NAPD, no one present in name only. Virtually every initiative undertaken by NAPD is a volunteer effort by members who make time to develop the projects that they are passionate about while simultaneously serving their clients. In short, NAPD is an association of “us.” Be part of the resistance.


What’s going on out there? NAPD really wants to know. What have we been up to? We want to tell you! Do you or does your system have a challenge you need help with? Do you or does your system have a strength you’d like to share? We’re all about building a community among our members, and we have a variety of ways to exchange information, leverage existing resources, and undertake new work together. NAPD know that effective public defense depends on lawyers, investigators, social workers, IT professionals, budget officers, administrative staff and other advocates, and we support and encourage multi-faceted defense teams. We’re here and we’re listening. Everything we’ve done so far is the result of the energy and engagement of our membership. Have a good idea, or a suggestion for something we can do to improve? We’re all about that. Become engaged in the movement – you’ll make it better.


NAPD believes that client-centered representation is the only way to satisfy the constitutional right to counsel. Client-centered representation means that the public defender/ defense team gives the client the power, ability, and the right to decide what direction he wants his case to take, after being given the counsel he needs. The defender/team attempts to understand the client’s situation from the client’s point of view, and respects the client’s right to choose the ultimate course of his case. In order to achieve client-centered representation, there must be mutual trust between the client and his defender advocates. It is the crux of the public defense crisis that workload, insufficient resources, disparities in the justice system and a host of other factors make it an incredible challenge to provide client-centered representation to clients. NAPD recognizes the tragedy of this reality and, through a number of different strategies, dedicates itself to achieving client-centered public defense services for every system. Will you help?

The Need for Systemic Change

NAPD encourages and assists public defender agencies to organize their own resources strategically in order to maximize the long-term benefits of justice system reform within client communities. All public defense professionals recognize that the practical fallout of the broken criminal justice system is the institutionalization of societal injustices that disenfranchise whole communities of poor people, especially people of color. These injustices include mass-incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, debtor’s prisons, restricted civil liberties, racial profiling, continuing consequences and many other issues. Addressing systemic injustice is critically important to the health and safety of our client communities, and NAPD sees this work as complimentary to the important goal of making sure that every client has a skilled and client-centered defense advocate. Please join us.


NAPD is a sharing organization. We’re committed to making it possible to get existing resources out there - especially to places that have been historically underserved, or places where “the system” consists of a solo practitioner. Imagine if an attorney in the middle of an arson trial with an opposing expert who has gone out on a forensic limb could open up her computer and quickly find the essential facts and supporting source articles necessary to rebut a spurious claim. Or an investigator negotiating a new form of social media for the first time was able to access a step-by-step checklist for how to efficiently and ethically negotiate the platform. Or an office interested in beginning to implement a pre-trial detention assessment tool could receive technical assistance from people in other offices who are just a little farther down that road? NAPD strives to make this possible, and much more. NAPD is committed to avoiding wastefulness in our system of limited resources, and we welcome opportunities for partnership. Can we help you do what you already do better? Promote it to new places? Throw our hands in the pot? Fixing our country’s justice system will require collaboration and mutual support. We’re stronger together - this sandbox will hold us all!


It can be tough to be a public defender professional, and NAPD is committed to providing a community that sustains public defenders through dark days and provides opportunity for growth and leadership that may not exist in local justice systems. In addition to providing training, resources, communication forums, amicus support, clearing-houses, policy positions and a host of other resources, NAPD recognizes the need for celebration and commiseration, and for a community of advocates to challenge the status quo, indulge out-of-the-box ideas and make the most of all the incredible stuff that’s out there. We need each other, and we want you to be a part of this positive community.