Gideon’s Promise has added white-collar defense veteran Charles Clayman of New York boutique Clayman & Rosenberg to its board.
The national nonprofit’s mission is to build a movement of public defenders who provide high-quality representation for criminal defendants in marginalized communities.
Founded in 2007 by Jonathan Rapping in Atlanta, Gideon’s Promise is the only group that partners with public defenders in underresourced offices to provide training and support. Rapping went on to win an MacArthur “genius” grant for his work.
“Charles has witnessed first-hand the challenges public defenders face to uphold the Constitutional rights of marginalized populations in this country, and we are pleased to have him join us in expanding the critical services Gideon’s Promise public defenders provide to more cities across the country,” said Rapping in a statement.
“The mission to transform the criminal justice system and provide proper legal representation to all is still in its infancy; and we welcome Charles’ experience and vision to our board of directors,” Rapping said.
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Gideon v. Wainright in 1963 that state courts are required under the 14th Amendment to provide lawyers to defendants accused of crimes who cannot afford an attorney. But the ongoing shortage of public defenders nationally means many people do not receive representation—or receive only a cursory defense.
According to a report from the Justice Policy Institute, about three-quarters of public defenders’ offices have annual caseloads far beyond the recommended levels for a defender of either 150 felony, 400 misdemeanor, 200 juvenile, 200 mental health or 25 appeals per year.
Nationally, 79% of state-funded public defender offices and 73% percent of those that are county-funded do not have enough lawyers to keep caseloads at those levels, according to the report. In Florida, public defenders juggle a caseload of 500 felonies. Kentucky public defenders’ average caseload is 460 cases.
“The work of Gideon’s Promise is essential to the system of justice every lawyer has sworn to uphold, and I am proud to be working with them in this capacity,” Clayman said in an announcement. “The unsung heroes of our democracy are the public defenders who work tirelessly to ensure that the rights of the accused are maintained.”
Clayman started his career as a prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and then worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. He also served as general counsel for the New York City Department of Investigation before co-founding Clayman & Rosenberg almost 40 years ago. He is a longtime faculty member for the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.