BPDA Summer Conferences

If you haven’t attended a previous BPDA Summer Conference, please consider joining us in 2023!

Save the date for this year’s BPDA Summer Conference! Mark your calendars and plan to meet us in Baltimore, MD on June 15 and 16. Join us for opportunities to build relationships with Black defenders from across the country and enjoy the safe space of our conversations. BPDA members register with a $100 discount!

There will be sessions for professionals looking to grow, connect, and be inspired. Our conference is open to anyone who wants to join in the effort to dismantle the criminal legal system. Join our email list to receive information about this year’s conference and other trainings that we offer.

The 2022 BPDA Conference was held virtually June 16-17, 2022! The conference theme was “Reimagining Justice” — we invited attendees to consider and imagine new approaches to safety through a comprehensive program of policy and advocacy, professional development, and skills training.

Presenter: Our keynote speaker was Derecka Purnell! As a lawyer, organizer, and author, she works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and training in grassroots organizations through an abolitionist framework.

This Twitter thread recaps her session as she shared her journey as an abolitionist and how to shrink carceral systems through abolition.

Thank you to everyone who joined us on June 17-18, 2021 for the virtual BPDA Summer Conference. This event was our third conference and our second conference on a virtual platform. The annual BPDA Summer Conference provides Black public defenders, who identify with and are committed to the populations they serve, the opportunity to train, dialogue and network with each other. We hoped you enjoyed hearing from the nation’s leading voices on racial justice and defender leadership.

We also would like to thank every single person who helped make this conference a success: our expert panelists, board members, and staff worked tirelessly to bring you a conference tailor-made to the needs of Black defenders.

New for the 2021 conference, we launched 4 separate tracks: Emerging Leaders (for aspiring public defenders and law students), Skills Training, Policy Reform, and Professional Development.

Presenter: Kristin Henning, Blume Professor of Law & Director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law, Washington DC

Some highlighted takeaways:

The physical and psychological trauma of constant police surveillance impacts how Black children form their sense of self under fear. It also has clear impacts on the physical and mental health of Black and brown communities.

When meeting new clients, defenders must remember that they have likely experienced racial trauma throughout their contact with the criminal legal system — maybe even with their previous defenders. It’s important to acknowledge this as you work with and advocate for them.

(not pictured: Monte Givhan)

Moderator: Stan Germán, Executive Director, New York County Defender Services, New York NY


  • Derwyn Burton, Chief District Defender for Orleans Parish (New Orleans, LA)
  • Michael Carter, Deputy Defender, Federal Community Defender Office (Detroit, MI)
  • Sharone Mitchell Jr., Chief Defender, Cook County (Chicago, IL)
  • Mercer (“Monte”) Givhan, Director of Training and Staff Development, Civilian Complaint Review Board (New York, NY)

Quotes from the session:

Michael Carter: A large part of this job is being a visionary. You don’t want to keep things status quo. Keep thinking outside of the box.

Derwyn Bunton: It showed our political community that public defenders are not powerless. I’ve learned that there are still spaces where we need to increase our influence.

Find more quotes in this Twitter thread!

Presenter: James Forman Jr., the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School

Quotes from the session:

Realize your power…Don’t ever stop talking. Don’t stop talking in court, the community or the media. Keep raising your voice and the voice of your clients because we need to hear you.

Nobody knows better the specific legal ways the system harms the community than the Black public defenders who are in the community and the courtroom.

The 2020 BPDA Summer Conference, held virtually on Thursday, July 16, was a resounding success. The BPDA Summer Conference tackled everything from how to advance your career, how to aid in the fight for Black lives, to moving success stories from the client community.

BPDA’s first virtual conference provided Black public defenders, who identify with and are committed to the populations they serve, the opportunity to train, dialogue and network with each other. 

Many of the sessions were captured on social media, and we have provided links and highlights for you all to view below. 

Opening Plenary

Jeffery Robinson, Deputy Legal Director, ACLU & Director of the ACLU Trone Center for Justice and Equality. You can watch Robinson’s full remarks in this Facebook Live video.

Closing Plenary: Black Defenders Matter: Seeing the World Through the Lens of Our Clients

Michael White shared about the importance of Black defenders and how Keir Bradford-Grey, Chief Defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, impacted his case. This Twitter thread recaps his story and remarks about why Black defenders matter.

The How to Advance in Your Career as a Black Defender session is recapped in this Twitter threadThe panelists included:

  • Byron Conway, Attorney, Federal Defender Program, Georgia;
  • Cynthia Jones Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law;
  • Herbert Duzant, Criminal Defense Investigator, Nevada Federal Defenders;
  • Clinique Marshall, Senior Program Associate, Vera Institute of Justice;
  • Cynthia Roseberry, Deputy Director, ACLU; and
  • Juval Scott, Federal Public Defender, Western Virginia.

The How to Recruit and Retain Black Attorneys in Public Defender Offices & Hold the Broader PD Community Accountable for Inclusion session is recapped in this Twitter thread. The panelists included:

  • Lori James-Townes, Professor, Towson University & President, Expand-Now, LLC;
  • Doris Randle-Holt, Federal Defender of Western Tennessee;
  • Zanele Ngubeni, Supervising Attorney, Atlanta Judicial Circuit;
  • Samia Hossain, Research & Writing Attorney, Federal Public Defender Office; and
  • Herbert Duzant, Criminal Defense Investigator, Nevada Federal Defenders.

The Dismantling Structural Racism and White Supremacy Through Systems Reform session is recapped in this Twitter threadThe panelists included:

  • Porsha-Shaf’on Venable, Staff Attorney, The Bronx Defenders;
  • Erin Miles Cloud, Co-Founder & Co-Director, Movement for Family Power;
  • Patrice James, Founding Attorney, Still She Rises, Tulsa;
  • Leonard Noisette, Director, Open Society Institute Justice; and
  • David Singleton, Executive Director, Ohio Justice & Policy Center.

The Hearing the Untold Clients’ Stories about Race and Criminal Legal System session’s highlights and key takeaways is recapped in this Twitter thread. The panelists included:

  • Paula Thompson, Voices for Second Chances in DC;
  • Norman Brown, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS);
  • Musa Mahdi, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS);
  • Rolanda Holman, advocate; and
  • CeCe Jones-Davis, worship leader, speaker, writer, and social advocate.

The How to Do Virtual Hearings and Preserve Clients’ Rights? session is recapped in this Twitter thread. The panelists included:

  • Aisha McWeay, Executive Director, Still She Rises;
  • Keesha Turner Roberts, Clinical Supervisor, Howard Law Civil/Housing Clinic; and
  • Callie Glanton Steele, Federal Defenders of Louisiana.

The Tackling Race in the Courtroom session is recapped in this Twitter thread. It was led by former NACDL President Lisa Wayne.

A video recap of the
2019 BPDA Summer Conference