The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, (NDS) is known nationally and internationally for its innovative, community-based, holistic public defense practice. Our dedicated staff is committed to providing unparalleled legal representation.

Since we opened our doors in Harlem in 1990, we have pioneered the holistic model as a way to address problems plaguing public defense. In contrast to a traditional public defense practice, NDS clients have an entire team fighting on their behalf, including criminal and civil attorneys, social workers, investigators, paralegals, law school and social work interns, and pro bono attorneys. NDS deploys all of these resources on behalf of our clients, addressing the underlying issues that bring them into contact with the criminal legal system.  We use our engagement as an opportunity to disentangle them from the system completely.

This approach allows defense to extend well beyond the courtroom, with robust social services and comprehensive teams meant to protect our clients from the damages of criminal legal proceedings. When clients face consequences with employment, schooling, immigration or in family or housing court, NDS works alongside them to resolve these issues.

NDS fights for our clients both by working their cases and by advocating for policy changes that provide a measure of justice to their communities. We are an active member of these communities, establishing meaningful relationships with our clients and their families. We host frequent education and outreach events to support our neighbors and participate in local events.

NDS has been a part of the Harlem community for nearly 30 years and will open a second office in Detroit in 2019, providing the same world-class service to the people of Wayne County.

Who We Are

Our Team

Our Board


Where We Are