Black Public Defender Association

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The Black Public Defender Association aims to improve the quality of defense provided to low-income communities across the United States by creating and maintaining a national network of skilled Black public defenders that identify with and are committed to the populations they serve.

Black Public Defender Association 2019 Conference

For the inaugural Black Public Defender Association Conference, we had over 100 attendees! Topics covered ranged from the intensive cross-examination training to gaining the tools and ideas needed to address race in the courtroom. Conference attendees were able to discuss how to work with client communities and acknowledge their own privilege, as well as how to navigate workplace challenges as a public defender leader.

The creation of the Black Public Defender Association is based on the recognition that creating and maintaining a national network of skilled Black public defenders who identify with and come from the communities most disproportionally impacted by the criminal legal system is necessary to fight against and end mass incarceration. BPDA was created to provide a safe space for black public defenders to come to receive training, support, and encouragement to support excellence in public defense.

Our programming includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Training and professional support for Black attorneys and advocates to secure employment and advance in leadership at public defender offices;   
  2. Pipeline programming designed to promote awareness of, cultivate early interest in, and ensure access to the public defense profession for Black students;
  3. Continuing Legal Education and workshops designed to assist defenders in providing more culturally competent, client-centered representation; and  
  4. Community forums to promote dialogue and organizing around law-related issues that disproportionately affect Black communities.

While BPDA is focused and committed to addressing issues facing the black community, we are also committed to partnering with related social and racial justice organizations to fight for the liberation of all.

BPDA History

The unique experiences and challenges of black public defenders prompted Patrice James, a founding public defender of Still She Rises, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to reach out to April Frazier Camara, then Director of Defender Legal Services at the National Legal Aid Defender Association (NLADA) in the fall of 2017, to inquire about national organizations that provide support and training for black public defenders. Patrice’s inquiry prompted a long-overdue discussion at NLADA about the need to form an organization that would serve as a safe space, refuge, and training ground for black public defenders throughout the country. During initial discussions at NLADA, April learned from NLADA President and CEO Jo-Ann Wallace, the idea for this organization had been discussed for many years in the black defender community. Jo-Ann recognized the long-standing desire and need for such an organization and readily supported its creation under April’s leadership.

Click here to read more about our history.

BPDA Leadership

The Chair - April Frazier Camara

The Vice-Chair - Patrice James

The National Secretary - Brittany Mobley

Director(s) of Membership and Recruitment - Sylvia Smith and Porsha Venable

Director of Communications - Lauren Johnson

Director of Social Policy and Advocacy - Chiquisha Robinson

Director of Skills Based Training - Heather Pinckney 

Director(s) of Leadership and Professional Development - Lori James Townes and Keir Bradford-Grey


Please contact Jayniece Harris ([email protected]) if you have any questions or are interested in becoming a member.

Read our announcement here.