The Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania (PDAP) was founded in 1971, in response to an evaluation of services to indigent defendants ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1970. Public Defender offices were still relatively new in some counties then, as Article 1, §9, the Pennsylvania Constitutional provision that created the Public Defender’s office across each county, was adopted in 1968. Vincent J. Ziccardi wrote the report evaluating the state of Defender services. Among other things, the report recommended that “(e)xtensive training programs should be provided for all new attorneys.” At that time, no office had a training program for its Defenders.
Ziccardi was among the original Board of Directors of PDAP, which also included Anne V. Welsh, Thomas M. McLenahan, John W. Packel, William P. Stewart, Edward H. Weis, and Richard J. Marvin. Ziccardi served as the organization’s first President, and Edward L. Willard, of Center County, served as the first Vice President. The original goals of the organization were “to promote and preserve high standards for the representation of the indigent accused of crime or delinquency; to promote an interchange of ideas and experience concerning functions in the field of criminal defense throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;… and to participate as amicus curiae in important appellate criminal cases.”
In many ways, those are goals that PDAP still aspires to today. Over the years, PDAP has advanced Pennsylvania’s public defender community in a variety of ways, and in the early 2000s, with the support of funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), it began holding regular trainings for Defenders. Those trainings still take place today, as part of a long-standing, partnership with Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law. Over the years PDAP has trained scores on Pennsylvania’s defenders on case analysis, weaving case theory through all aspects of case preparation and trial, voir dire, cross-examination skills, appellate practice, and capital case analysis and mitigation. Under the leadership of Professor Gary Gildin at Dickinson and Fred Goodman from the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and with the help of countless Defenders who volunteered their time as faculty, these trainings thrived.
Today PDAP operates under the guidance of a volunteer Board, made up of Chief Defenders and assistant public defenders from across Pennsylvania. In 2020, through the support of funding from PCCD, PDAP hired its first employee, Sara Jacobson, to serve as PDAP’s Executive Director of Training.
Why does Pennsylvania need PDAP today? Every defendant deserves not just competent representation, but excellent representation. Not every public defender’s office can afford a training unit, or needs one. PDAP steps into that breach, to train defenders, to advocate for issues and cases that matter to defendants and the defense community, and to build community among Pennsylvania’s public defenders. As Dave Crowley, the longest standing Chief Defender in the Commonwealth and long-standing PDAP Secretary said, “my high point as a young PD was my first PACDL CLE where John Packel from Philly was the lunchtime speaker. He blew me away. Listening to John at that conference, I realized that I wasn’t alone.
Pennsylvania’s Defenders are never alone. They stand arm and arm, across this Commonwealth, at the front line of the battle to defend people and to defend the rights enshrined by the Constitution. And PDAP stands with them, every step of the way.
To contact PDAP with questions or if you are a Pennsylvania Public Defender who wants access to the password protected training materials, contact Sara Jacobson at SJacobson.firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADDRESS: PO Box 42014, Philadelphia, PA, 19104