cover of book
by Edward W. Madeira Jr. and Michael D. Schaffer
Temple University Press, 2021
eISBN: 978-1-4399-1854-8 | Cloth: 978-1-4399-1852-4
Library of Congress Classification KFX2137.4.P8
Dewey Decimal Classification 345.74801423631


Long before the Supreme Court ruled that impoverished defendants in criminal cases have a right to free counsel, Philadelphia’s public defenders were working to ensure fair trials for all. In 1934, when penniless defendants were routinely railroaded through the courts without ever seeing a lawyer, Philadelphia attorney Francis Fisher Kane helped create the Voluntary Defender Association, supported by charity and free from political interference, to represent poor people accused of crime. 

When the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision Gideonv. Wainwright mandated free counsel for indigent defendants, the Defender (as it is now known) became more essential than ever, representing at least 70 percent of those caught in the machinery of justice in the city. Its groundbreaking work in juvenile advocacy, homicide representation, death-row habeas corpus petitions, parole issues, and alternative sentencing has earned a national reputation.

In The Defender, Edward Madeira, past president of the Defender’s Board of Directors, and former Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Michael Schaffer chart the 80-plus-year history of the organization as it grew from two lawyers in 1934 to a staff of nearly 500 in 2015.

This is a compelling story about securing justice for those who need it most.

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