top of page

Who We Are

President: Julia Burke, Esq.                                      First Assistant- Blair County


Julia Burke is the First Assistant Public Defender in Blair County.  She has served as a Public Defender in Blair County for a decade, where she tries all manner of criminal cases, handles appeals, and trains new attorneys.  A champion for those with mental health issues, she helped develop the curriculum for the Crisis Intervention Training program for Blair County law enforcement.  Before joining the Blair County Public Defenders, she was in private practice in New York, and worked as an intern for the New York County Legal Aid Society.

Julia graduated from New York Law School in 2010, following her undergraduate degree from Penn State.  Julia has previously served as PDAP’s Treasurer, and Assistant Treasurer.  She won PDAP’s President’s award in 2016. 

Julia is a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL) and served on the Blair County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.  In 2023 she served on the faculty of the Villanova Sentencing Workshop, arguing on behalf of the defense.  The Workshop is held in conjunction with Villanova Law School, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission and the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts.  

Vice President: Christopher Welsh, Esq.                   Chief- Delaware County


Christopher Welsh became the Director of the Office of the Public Defender of Delaware County on July 6, 2020. Prior to assuming this role Chris was the Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law for 2 years. Chris began his legal career at the Defender Association of Philadelphia in 2005 and worked in a variety of units in the office, rising to the position of Deputy Director prior to leaving for Penn Law in 2017. Chris is a graduate of St. Joseph’s University and Temple University Law school. 

Treasurer: Michael Halkias                                        Chief - Cumberland County                 

Michael Halkias is the Chief Public Defender of Cumberland County.  He has been with the Cumberland County Public Defender Office for almost his entire career.  Before joining the Cumberland County Public Defenders, Michael clerked for the Honorable John C. Uhler.


Michael graduated from Penn State Dickinson School of Law, where he first began at the Defender as a Certified Legal Intern.  Later, he worked for the Cumberland County Public Defenders as an Assistant, Senior Assistant, Deputy, and Michael assumed the Chief's role in 2015.  Michael volunteers for various organizations around Cumberland County and helps with Mock Trial at Dickinson Law. He also serves on the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee (CAPPAC). 

Other Officers: 

  • Nicole Sloane Kondrlik – Assistant Treasurer (Erie)

  • David Crowley - Secretary (Centre County)

  • Carrie Allman - Asst. Secretary  (Philadelphia County)  


Board Members:

  • Phillip Clabaugh (McKean County)

  • Brandon Ging (Allegheny County)

  • Steven Greewald (Luzerne County)

  • Autumn Johnson (Mercer County)    

  • Greg Nestor (Montgomery County)

  • Nathan Schenker (Chester County)

  • Jasmin Smith (Snyder County)

  • Nicole Spring (Lycoming County)

  • Christopher Tallarico (Lancaster County)

  • Elizabeth Wood (Columbia)

Ex Officio:

  • Kim Makoul  (Lehigh County)

PDAP Executive Director: Sara Jacobson

Sara Jacobson is the Executive Director of the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania (PDAP).  She has worked for PDAP since 2020.

Before joining PDAP, Jacobson served as the Director of Trial Advocacy and an Associate Professor at Temple Law School, where she taught Trial Advocacy, Evidence and Criminal Procedure, and worked with Temple’s International LLM program in Beijing, At Temple she also helped to run Temple’s National Trial Team and co-chaired the Dean’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion.



Before coming to Temple, Sara was an assistant public defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia.  During her time there, she tried thousands of cases and was the Assistant Chief of the Juvenile Unit.  Her first job as a Public Defender was in Berks County. 

Sara also trains on Trial Advocacy, both  nationally and internationally.  In addition to training for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) and Trial Advocacy Consulting & Training (TACT), she trains lawyers internationally on trial advocacy skills for the International Law Institute’s African Centre for Legal Excellence.  She is also a member of the Board of the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA).  

Sara serves as the Chair of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Rules of Evidence Committee and has held numerous volunteer positions with the Philadelphia Bar Association, including serving as the Chair of the Public Interest Section and as a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors.  She trains judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court staff and law school communities on transgender competency in the courtroom and in the classroom.

In 2020 she was recognized by her peers in the trial advocacy community with the Edward D. Ohlbaum award, and in 2022 was recognized by the Bar Association with the Cheryl Ingram award

Assistant Training Director for Eastern Pennsylvania: Elizabeth Wood-Bennett, Esq


Elizabeth Wood-Bennett is PDAP's Assistant Training Director for Eastern Pennsylvania.  She formerly served as the Chief Defender in Columbia County.  She is death penalty certified, and previously served as Columbia County’s First Assistant.  She has tried criminal cases in Columbia County as either an Assistant Defender or Conflict Counsel since 2010 and also ran her own private practice. She frequently serves as faculty at PDAP trainings, most recently at our 2023 Leadership Conference and our Bring Your Own Case Defending Sex Offense Cases Conference.

Assistant Training Director for Western Pennsylvania: Andrew Capone

Andrew Capone serves as the Assistant Director of Training for the Western Half of Pennsylvania. He is dedicated to carrying the message of best practices in holistic indigent defense to all Public Defenders throughout the Commonwealth. Andrew’s commitment and focus on both equity and wellness in the profession manifest in his passion for holistic representation.  

Prior to joining the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania, Andrew served as the Director of Attorney Recruiting and Retention at the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender. In this position he created a national recruiting model that brought that office into the top tier of Public Defender’s offices nationally. The recruiting program is extremely competitive and receives hundreds of applications each year from students at the best and most diverse law schools in the country. This program “has been one of the most successful initiatives in the history of the Office of the Public Defender.” The success of thatoffice has stemmed from this groundbreaking and revolutionary hiring program. 


Screenshot 2023-09-12 at 8.52.04 AM.png

Before the creating the recruiting program, Andrew spent five years as Manager of the Trial Division. He is dedicated to a holistic model of indigent defense and is dedicated to service in the community. His mission is to make sure every attorney in Public Defense can provide their clients with skilled, aggressive, and passionate advocacy, preserving the rights guaranteed to all members of our community. In furtherance of his commitment to holistic indigent defense, Andrew created Project Rehabilitate to break the cycle of incarceration for patients at drug and alcohol treatment facilities.  

Andrew joined the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender in 2010. He has jury trial experience representing clients charged with nearly every type of criminal offense ranging from misdemeanor DUI and retail theft to kidnapping, rape, and murder. He is certified to represent clients facing the death penalty in capital murder cases. His experience dealing with complex and high-profile cases involving severe mental illnesses, including the defense of legal insanity, has paved the way for training programs focused on aggressive and creative defense advocacy. 

Andrew graduated from Suffolk University Law School, where he received the Jurisprudence Award in Criminal Law. He later served as a Judicial Intern in the United States District Court – District of Massachusetts and represented indigent clients in Boston Municipal Court as a part of the Suffolk Defender Clinic. 

Manager of SWIM Advocacy and Engagement: Julie Hyman

Julie Hyman, LSW, MSSP (she/her) is leading engagement efforts for PDAP's SWIM community. She is a consultant, social worker, mitigation specialist and investigator in private practice, supporting public defense and court appointed legal teams with client centered advocacy. Julie is currently located in Philadelphia, though has conducted investigations in over 30 states and has experience working within federal, state, and local criminal legal systems. Before she was in private practice, Julie was employed as an Investigator/Mitigation Specialist at the Federal Community Defender's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's Capital Habeas Unit, supporting appeals for clients on death row. Prior to completing graduate studies in Social Work and Social Policy, Julie worked in social services in New York City and in Namibia with the United States Peace Corps.

JH headshot2.jpg


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


ADDRESS: PO Box 42014, Philadelphia, PA, 19104

This website and training materials across it are made possible by grants from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and was financed, in part, by a grant from the federal Department of Justice under the administration of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development. PDAP thanks them for their support of our work.  PDAP does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or age; and that it does not retaliate against persons who file a discrimination complaint or lawsuit, who complain about discrimination; or who participate in a discrimination proceeding, such as being a witness in a complaint investigation or lawsuit. 

To file complaints alleging discrimination, people can contact the PDAP Board President (see PDAP Leadership under the “About Us” tab of the website. To file complaints with the Department of Justice Office for Civil Rights at

bottom of page