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Answering Gideon's Call: Serving the Community In Public Defense

As part of its mission to support public defense, and in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Department of Justice's Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) is launching a national law school tour to elevate the importance of careers in public defense and to spotlight the role of criminal defense lawyers in STAR (small, Tribal, and rural) communities.

On October 18, 2023, ATJ Director, Rachel Rossi, will join local and national public defense leaders and practitioners at SMU's Dedman School of Law to discuss careers in public defense. Co-hosted by NACDL, this hybrid event will bring together law students from across the country to discuss critical issues, including the benefits and challenges of working in public defense, advice for building a sustainable and rewarding career, and practicing as a defender in STAR communities.

The program is FREE

Event Details:

  • Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2023

  • Time: 12:15 - 4:00pm CT (1:15-5:30p ET | 11:15-3:30p MT | 10:15-2:30p PT)

    • An in-person networking reception will be held from 4:00-5:00 pm CT.

  • Location: Live at SMU Frances Anne Moody Hall & Virtual via Zoom


Session 1: Public Defense Opportunities in Texas 
12:15-1:45p CT (1:15-2:45 ET | 11:15-12:45 MT | 10:15-11:45 PT)

Welcoming Remarks: Dean Jason Nance, SMU Dedman School of Law

The State of Public Defense in Texas: Scott Ehlers, Interim Director, Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) 

Jim Bethke, Director, Bexar County Managed Assigned Counsel Office
Jason Hawkins, Federal Public Defender, Northern District of Texas
Adeola Ogunkeyede, Chief Public Defender, Travis County 
Matthew Wright, Partner, Diaz & Wright

Moderator: Linda Gonzalez, Senior Policy Analyst, TIDC

Session 2: Answering Gideon's Call in Every Community 
2:00-4:00p CT (3-4:00p ET | 1-3:00p MT | 12-2:00p PT)

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Opening Remarks: Rachel Rossi, Director, Office for Access to Justice

André de Gruy, Mississippi Office of State Public Defender
Shawn Leisinger, Assoc. Dean for Centers & External Programs, Washburn Univ. School of Law
Linda Gonzalez, Senior Policy Analyst, TIDC
Cydni Sanchez, Deputy Chief, New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender

Moderator: Blane Skiles, Communications Director, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center

In-person networking reception will be held following Session 2, from 4:00 - 5:00 pm CT.

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I Am Gideon's Future!

Be a part of our video project by sharing your stories and your passion.Throughout the program we will be highlighting the passion, dedication, and motivations of the next generation of public defense lawyers. Help us by recording and uploading a short video (no more than 30 second) of your reasons for wanting to become a public defense lawyer. More information on the "I Am Gideon's Future" project can be found here.

Learn More