Community-Oriented Defense

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Community-Oriented Defender Network

For more than 50 years, the criminal justice system has been tasked with solving a variety of our society’s most challenging problems. For people living in poverty, access to justice is therefore closely linked with access to healthcare, housing, education, and employment.  Community-oriented defenders believe that effective representation today requires a holistic approach to these issues. When defenders engage deeply with their communities, they become not only better lawyers for their clients, but better agents of political change.

Members of the COD Network, recognizing that community oriented defense services may take many forms (reflecting local imperatives, unique office priorities, resource constraints, and other factors), embrace the following goals:

  1. Create a "client-centered practice." We aspire to employ a diverse group of attorneys, investigators, social workers and other advocates who respect their clients' wishes and goals, and who work together to ensure that the dignity of every client is honored.
  2. Meet clients' needs. We seek to promote the life success of every client by:  identifying educational gaps, mental health issues, addiction, and other needs, and linking clients with resources, opportunities, and services to meet those needs.
  3. Partner with the community. We seek to maintain a local presence in the communities we serve, and to form relationships with community members, community based organizations, and community institutions (e.g., courts, schools, government, health care providers and employers) to improve case outcomes and life outcomes for clients and to strengthen families and communities.
  4. Fix systemic problems. We aspire to change policies that harm clients, families and communities (e.g., policing practices that produce racial and ethnic disparities in arrest rates).
  5. Educate the public. We seek to describe the human impact of the criminal justice system to policymakers, journalists, and others so that the public can better appreciate the cost to individuals, communities, and the nation of "tough on crime" policies.
  6. Collaborate. We aim to create partnerships with likely and unlikely allies, including prosecutors, victims, faith-based organizations, and national and state based legal aid organizations to share ideas, promote change, and support mutual efforts.
  7. Address civil legal needs. We seek to promote access to civil legal services to resolve clients' legal concerns in such areas as housing, immigration, family court, and public benefits, occasioned by involvement with the criminal justice system.
  8. Pursue a multidisciplinary approach. We aspire to engage not only lawyers but also social workers, counselors, medical practitioners, investigators and others to address the needs of clients, their families and communities.
  9. Seek necessary support. We seek essential funding, professionally approved workload limits, and other resources and structures sufficient to enable the COD model to succeed.
  10. Participate in the COD network. We are dedicated to sharing ideas, research and models to help advance the COD movement locally and nationally in order to maximize its benefits for clients, families and communities.
Founded in 2003, the Community-Oriented Defender (COD) Network has grown from eight members to a coalition of more than 100 public defender offices and related service providers. In 2014, NLADA was proud to become the home of the COD Network. For more information, email [email protected].

Restoration of Rights Project

The Restoration of Rights Project is an online resource that offers state-by-state analyses of the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to restoration of rights and status following arrest or conviction. It is a valuable resource for practitioners in all phases of the criminal justice system, for courts, for civil practitioners assisting clients whose court-imposed sentence has exposed them to additional civil penalties, for policymakers and advocates interested in reentry and reintegration of convicted persons, and for the millions of Americans with a criminal record who are seeking to put their past behind them.

This resource covers areas such as loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms rights, judicial and executive mechanisms for avoiding or mitigating collateral consequences, and provisions addressing non-discrimination in employment and licensing. Each jurisdiction’s information is separately summarized for quick reference. It also provides a set of 50-state comparison charts that illustrates national patterns in restoration laws and policies. Jurisdiction-specific information about organizations that assist individuals in securing relief and other third-party resources will be provided in the future.

Restoration of Rights Project – NLADA is a proud partner of this project along with the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the National HIRE Network.