Champion of Public Defense Award

The Champion of Public Defense Award recognizes an individual or group for exceptional efforts in making positive changes to a local, county, state, or federal public defense system. Although the outstanding direct, individual representation of every defendant is one of NACDL's foremost goals, this award is intended to highlight efforts toward systemic advances through legislation, litigation, or other strategies.

Nominations are now open for the 2021-22 Champion of Public Defense Award
Submission Deadline: June 30, 2021

NACDL's Public Defense Committee is accepting nominations for the 2021-22 Champion of Public Defense Award. The Champion of Public Defense award recognizes lawyers and non-lawyers for their efforts to improve state, local, and federal public defense systems through litigation, legislation, or other strategies.  

. To nominate a group or individual for the award, please submit a 1-2 page summary highlighting:

  • The problems that existed in the relevant public defense system,
  • The efforts made by the nominee to improve the system (i.e., coalitions formed, legislation proposed, task forces created, litigation efforts, etc.),
  • The number of years the nominee has been involved in efforts to improve public defense,
  • A brief history of the nominee's career, and
  • The changes that have been made in the system as a result of the nominee's efforts.

Letters of support and additional supplemental materials (such as brochures, reports, or news articles) may also be included. There is no limited to the number of pages of supplemental materials that may be provided.

  • Nominees can include attorneys, as well as non-lawyer advocates and reformers.  All submissions must be made by June 30, 2020.
  • Submission: can be made by email or mail. 
    • By email: Nomination materials should be sent (as a PDF document) to Bonnie Hoffman at:, subject line: Champion of Public Defense Award.(must be sent by June 30, 2021)
    • By mail: Nomination materials should be sent to: NACDL, 1660 L St. NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC 20036, attn: Bonnie Hoffman (must be postmarked by June 30, 2021)
  • Deadline: June 30, 2021

2019 Champion of Public Defense Award

In 2019, NACDL honored the Civil Rights Corps and the San Francisco Public Defender's Office for their joint work pursuing pretrial reforms in the state of California. Over the course of the past three years, the organizations have pursued an innovative, multi-case, multi-pronged approach, culminating in their work in In Re: Kenneth HumphreyFiled in 2017, the case challenges the constitutionality of existing California bail practices, including the use of bail schedules, because they fail to consider the individual financial circumstances of the accused. 

More on Pretrial Advocacy

Past Recipients

2019 Civil Rights Corps Washington, DC
2019 San Francisco Public Defender’s Office San Francisco, CA
2016 Alexander Bunin Houston, TX
2013 Bruce Jacob Gulfport, FL
2011 Justice Michael Cherry Carson City, NV
2011 Bennett H. Brummer Miami, FL
2009 Robert L. Spangenberg Boston, MA
2008 Marshal J. Hartman Chicago, IL
2007 Erwin W. Lewis Frankfort, KY
2006 Robert Boruchowitz Seattle, WA
2005 Prof. Norman Lefstein Indianapolis, IN
2004 Patricia Puritz Washington, DC
2003 Gary Parker Columbus, GA
2002 Norman L. Reimer New York, NY
2001 Mary Ann Tally Fayetteville, NC


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