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Shaping and Inspiring Future Leaders in Public Defense: Public Defender Corps Fellows Announced

(May 1, 2012)  Washington, DC – Across the country public defender offices are under-funded, under-staffed, and inundated with enormous caseloads, resulting in a fundamentally unfair criminal justice system.   Equal Justice Works® and The Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC)  are working to change that and have announced the 2012 Class of Public Defender Corps Fellows. These 19 fellows will spend the next three years committed to changing the standard of practice for defendants who are caught in the criminal justice system and cannot afford an attorney.  Selected through a highly competitive process that drew more than 450 applicants from law schools across the country, the Public Defender Corps Fellows will receive intense training, mentorship and support as they launch their careers as leaders of criminal justice reform.

The 2012 class of Public Defender Corps Fellows joins a community of defenders dedicated to changing the culture of indigent representation and systemic reform.  “These new lawyers come out of law school ready to change the world and through the Public Defender Corps they have an avenue to do it,” said Jonathan Rapping, Founder and President of SPDTC. “They are given an intensive training experience and are supported by a faculty of some of the best public defenders in the country.  As we get ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Gideon decision next year, these new public defenders can help us live up to Gideon’s promise.”

“The competition for the Public Defender Corps program is intense,” said David Stern, Executive Director of Equal Justice Works.  “To be considered, applicants must meet a set of rigorous academic and professional requirements; demonstrate a commitment to improving the indigent defense system and providing exceptional client-centered representation through personal experiences; and convey a conviction to the responsibilities of a public defender.  I am confident that the 19 chosen for this year’s class represent the best and brightest in the field.”   Among this year’s class are a Fulbright Scholar, an “Ending Supermax” Project participant, a former defense investigator for NOLA Investigates, and a recipient of the 2011 Nussbaum Public Interest Fellowship.   

Public Defender Corps began in 2011 placing Fellows in ten host sites.  In 2012, five new host sites have been added: Augusta, Georgia; Charleston, West Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Fellows will meet in July in Birmingham, Alabama, where the new class is set to begin training at the 2012 SPDTC Summer Institute.  Ed Monahan, Chief Defender for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy stressed the leadership potential of Public Defender Corps Fellows, “I come from the viewpoint that the most significant way to improve representation for our clients is to get the best leaders – people with heart and the most passion. Leadership is a significant sustainable competitive advantage for our clients. That is what Public Defender Corps affords us.”   

The Public Defender Corps is supported by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. 

 “The Bureau of Justice Assistance is proud to support this year’s Public Defender Corps Fellows” says BJA Director, Denise E. O’Donnell.  “The Department of Justice is dedicated to providing resources for leadership training to elevate the quality of legal representation for indigent defendants.  The new lawyers that emerge from this fellowship will advance the level of public defender services across the nation.”

A full list of the 2012 Public Defender Corps Fellows can be seen here.  For additional information on the Public Defender Corps program, please visit or


Sally Carlson, Director of Communications & Outreach, Equal Justice Works | 202-466-3686 ext. 102

Ilham Askia, Executive Director, Southern Public Defender Training Center | 404-525-4505 ext. 101

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Equal Justice Works is the national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers.  Collaborating with the nation’s leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills that enable attorneys to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes.  Equal Justice Works is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization.  For additional information about Equal Justice Works, please visit

The Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC) aims to inspire, mobilize, and train legal professionals to provide the highest quality defense representation to people unable to afford an attorney.  SPTDC lawyers, alumni, trainers and partners are changing the culture of indigent defense in the South and across the country, ensuring that every person has access to justice.  SPTDC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  For additional information, please visit