June 13, 2019
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Today, Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS) signed a contract with Wayne County, Michigan to open a new public defender office in Detroit and represent clients in 25% of adult felony cases. The signing follows a unanimous county commission vote approving the deal. The new office will bring world-class public defense to thousands of Wayne County’s most vulnerable residents.
NDS Detroit will open its doors this Fall and provide free legal services to Wayne County residents who are unable to afford an attorney. The organization arrives in Detroit with nearly 30 years of unparalleled service to the communities of Northern Manhattan, where its pioneering holistic defense model disentangles clients from the legal system.
“The people of Wayne County have a right to quality representation, and we are honored to bring it to them,” said NDS Executive Director Rick Jones. “We know what it means to work in communities negatively impacted by mass incarceration and will endeavor to provide our clients, their families and their communities with a level of service that keeps them safe and intact.”
NDS comes to Detroit thanks to important efforts by the Wayne County government and the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) to ensure residents’ constitutional rights.
“Everyone has a right to quality representation no matter their financial means, it’s a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. “We see this as a critical step to ensuring we have a public defender office based on nationwide best practices that ensures all people navigating the criminal justice system receive quality representation. We wanted a partner who could provide a holistic approach with a proven track record, and that’s what NDS brings to Wayne County.”
The arrival of NDS in Wayne County will guarantee high-quality legal representation to all residents. The organization spearheaded the creation of holistic public defense, which means its clients benefit from the services of entire teams that can confront a myriad of legal issues, rather than a single overworked, underpaid attorney. Teams consist of lawyers, social workers, advocates, administrators, and investigators, all of whom take time to understand clients as people and meet their legal and social needs.
This approach allows defense to extend well beyond the criminal courtroom: when clients face consequences with employment, schooling, immigration or in family or housing court, NDS works alongside them to resolve these issues. NDS Detroit will seek to partner with foundations and other private funding sources to expand beyond criminal defense and provide these holistic services in Wayne County.
“We are pleased that Wayne County has taken such a leading role in improving the quality of legal representation for the indigent, and look forward to continuing to work together as NDS brings the deep experience of Wayne County attorneys together with its innovative public defense model to Detroit,” said Loren Khogali, Executive Director of MIDC.
Beyond its direct services to clients, NDS Detroit will also coordinate training for the assigned counsel panel, helping to ensure that every resident benefits from today’s agreement.
NDS has earned national recognition for its decades of work on behalf of its clients: the organization won the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) inaugural Defender of Justice Award, naming it as the public defender office that best provides a voice to those who cannot afford a lawyer. It will bring the same services to Wayne County.
NDS Detroit will be a local office with a local team. Jones was born in Wayne County and spent his formative years in Detroit. Having served at NDS since its inception, as well as being the immediate past President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, an inaugural steering committee member of the NAPD, and vice-chairman of the International Legal Foundation, Jones has a deep understanding of the legal, social and economic issues faced by the people of Wayne County.
Chantá Parker will serve as the Managing Director of this new office. A former NDS legal intern and staff attorney who now serves as Supervising Attorney in the Criminal Defense Practice, Parker brings over ten years of defense experience and an unwavering commitment to providing the highest quality services to the people of Wayne County. Jones and Parker will be joined in the NDS Detroit leadership by experienced Detroit public defenders, and will oversee a staff of nearly 80.
“We’re excited to build an office that will provide the highest quality legal representation to those who simply cannot afford to hire counsel,” said Parker. “Our integrated services will meld local legal talent with a proven client support system to help the entire Detroit community thrive.”
NDS Detroit is now hiring for all positions. Learn more and apply here.
Sam McCann, Communications Specialist, NDS
Phone: (212) 316-7399