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The Role of Public Defense in Criminal Justice Reform

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In this fascinating CLE, Mr. Hanlon will discuss his decade-long effort to enforce Rules of Professional Responsibility that are in effect throughout the nation for public defenders in the state courts, as well as pending federal legislation that would provide $1.25 billion over a five-year period to fund state and local public defense systems, conditioned upon substantial criminal justice system reform.

Included in this presentation will be an analysis of the principles of qualitative analytics used in modern public defender workload studies, as well as what he has learned in litigating to enforce the results of those studies in Missouri and Louisiana; and a plan to use those studies, and others, to replace the 1973 NAC standards with reliable, data-based and standards-based national numerical caseload maximums that will serve as the basis for $1.25 billion in federal funding over five years to fund the unfunded judicial mandate of Gideon v Wainwright.

Lecturer Bio

Stephen F. Hanlon, Esq.

Since his retirement from Holland & Knight at the end of 2012, Mr. Hanlon has confined his practice to assisting and representing public defenders with excessive caseloads. He now serves as a Professor of Practice at Saint Louis University School of Law.

Hanlon was lead counsel for the Missouri Public Defender in State ex rel. Mo. Public Defender Commission, , 370 S.W.3d 592 (Mo.banc 2012), which was the first state supreme court case to uphold the right of a public defender organization to refuse additional cases when confronted with excessive caseloads. The Waters case has been described as a “watershed moment” in indigent defense. Davies, Andrew Lucas Blaize Davies, “How Do We ‘Do Data’ in Public Defense?,” 78 Albany Law Review 1179.

Hanlon was the project director for the American Bar Association in the critically acclaimed study of the workload of the Missouri Public Defender undertaken by RubinBrown on behalf of the American Bar Association, known as “The Missouri Project,” available at is external). He currently serves as the project director for similar studies in several states. The ABA Journal Magazine has called him “The Oracle” for public defender workload studies. In 2019, the New York Times described him as “one of the leading voices in public interest law for decades."

For the last 20 years, Mr. Hanlon has filed systemic indigent defense reform litigation across the nation, published four law review articles about that system, taught a law school course at SLU LAW about that system, spoken out publicly about that system, and testified as an expert witness in litigation seeking to change that system. His work has been featured in the New York Times, on 60 Minutes and on the PBS Evening News Hour.

Missouri attorneys may earn all 15 credits from the National Academy of Continuing Legal Education. To view our full accreditation details, please click here.

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