Norman Lefstein

Norman Lefstein

architect of the modern indigent defense reform movement

inducted into the Public Defense Hall of Fame on June 3, 2019

Norman Lefstein is an inaugural Member of the NAPD Fund for Justice, Inc. Board of Directors, and a Special Advisor to the National Association for Public Defense Steering Committee. He is widely regarded as the architect of the modern indigent defense reform movement. His lifetime of dedication to the work of public defense is unquestionable. He always will be remembered for that prodigious work. His visionary effort is his enduring legacy.

Norm is Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Indianapolis, Indiana. He was Dean from 1988 until 2002. Previously, Professor Lefstein was for twelve years a faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. He also has held visiting or adjunct appointments at the law schools of Duke, Northwestern, and Georgetown. His other positions have included service as Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, an Assistant United States Attorney in D.C., and as a staff member of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice. Earlier in his career, he was in private practice in a law firm and directed a large-scale Ford Foundation research project in which legal representation was furnished to juveniles in three metropolitan cities.

Norm’s body of work speaks volumes. He was the reporter for the ABA Eight Guidelines of Public Defense Related to Excessive Defender Workloads, approved by the American Bar Association (2009). Norm ‘s American Bar Association published book, Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense (2011) is the seminal work on defender workloads. As former Federal Judge and FBI Director William S. Sessions said, “The book serves as an insistent wake-up call for all of us, particularly for lawyers and judges who have taken an oath that we will never reject or ignore the causes of the oppressed or defenseless.” In this book, Norm said, “…I am optimistic about the future.” And well he should be because of the path forward he has laid out for us.

Norm’s professional activities include serving as Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Criminal Justice; as a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID); as chair of SCLAID’s Indigent Defense Advisory Group; and as Chief Consultant to a Subcommittee on Federal Death Penalty Cases of the Judicial Conference of the United States. For seventeen years, Professor Lefstein chaired the Indiana Public Defender Commission to which he was appointed by Indiana Governors. He also has frequently been an expert witness in proceedings concerned with professional ethics and/or defense representation. Professor Lefstein was a member and co-reporter for the National Right to Counsel Committee, organized by The Constitution Project and the National Legal and Defender Association. In this capacity, he played a major role in writing Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009). During the 1970’s, Professor Lefstein served as Reporter for the Second Edition of ABA Criminal Justice Standards Relating to The Prosecution Function, The Defense Function, Providing Defense Services, and Pleas of Guilty. In 1982, Professor Lefstein wrote Criminal Defense Services for the Poor: Methods and Programs for Providing Legal Representation and the Need for Adequate Financing, sponsored by ABA SCLAID; and in 2004, he co-authored Gideon’s Broken Promise: America’s Continuing Quest for Equal Justice, also an ABA SCLAID publication. His law review articles concerned with indigent defense include an extensive study comparing public defense in the United States with criminal legal aid in the United Kingdom.


We invite you to donate in the name of a Member of the Hall of Fame for future Creative Advocacy Grants, scholarships or technical assistance.

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