About Us

Stephen F. Hanlon is a dedicated attorney who is leading a national movement to reduce the workload of public defenders. He understands that when public defenders are overworked, they may not be fully equipped to defend their clients. As such, he is determined to ensure that public defenders have sufficient resources to provide the best legal representation to those who need it most. However, Lawyer Hanlon is not just a lawyer. He is a passionate advocate for social justice and fairness in the legal system, and he uses his platform to raise awareness about legal issues that affect marginalized communities. His unwavering commitment to fighting for justice has earned him respect and admiration from his peers and clients alike.

Mr. Hanlon began practicing law with his father, John F. Hanlon, about 55 years
ago in St. Louis, Missouri. He was mentored by his father, who was considered
by all who knew him to be “a lawyer’s lawyer.”

When Stephen F. Hanlon talks about leaving his job leading the nation’s largest private pro bono legal department at Holland & Knight in 2012, he likens it to taking a step into the unknown.

His legal team was coming off a decisive victory in which the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that judges could no longer ask the state’s public defenders to take on more cases than they could adequately represent. Hanlon called it a “watershed case.”

In the years since, Hanlon, now 82, has conducted various studies for the ABA in conjunction with major accounting and consulting firms in states across the country that show public defenders are overburdened and overworked without enough resources or time. In Louisiana, Hanlon’s study found that public defenders carried nearly five times the workload acceptable to provide reasonably effective representation. He made similar findings in Rhode Island and Colorado. (Arnold Ventures has supported some of Hanlon’s studies.)

Let Us Fight Together

Contact us today to start reshaping the future of our nation's criminal legal system!

How to Fix Public Defense

Stephen Hanlon, general counsel for the National Association for Public Defense, says giving adequate representation is about supply and demand. (CBS News)

Missouri Public Defenders are Overloaded with Hundreds of Cases While Defendants Wait in Jail

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees every American facing trial the right to a lawyer, even if they cannot afford one. But across the country, the public defender system is being stretched to the breaking point, and Missouri may be ground zero. John Yang reports with producer Frank Carlson, in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. (Summary from John Yang and Frank Carlson, PBS Newshour)

One Lawyer, 194 Felony Cases, and No Time

One Lawyer, One Day, 194 Felony Cases. It happened to Jack Talaska, then a public defender in Louisiana: His felony caseload for April 27, 2017, numbered 194. 

“New columnist in St. Louis…More to follow.”

The article was originally published in the St. Louis American April 15 – 21 2021 Edition

Indian Tribe Wins Fight to Limit Research of Its DNA

 Seven years ago, the Havasupai Indians, who live amid the turquoise waterfalls and red cliffs miles deep in the Grand Canyon, issued a “banishment order”...

American Bar Association finds Oregon has just 1/3 of needed public defenders

The state has 31% of the attorneys necessary to address current caseload, American Bar Association report finds

Across The U.S., Public Defender Offices Focusing On Data, Analytics To Drive Change

The data, said Stephen Hanlon, can provide concrete evidence of a broken system rather than relying on anecdotal stories 

 Louisiana Is Proceeding “In Flagrant Disregard Of The United States Constitution.”

The Louisiana Supreme Court once again refused to provide a systemic remedy for Louisiana’s decades’ long failure to provide reasonably effective and competent legal representation for its most impoverished citizens.

State V Covington Louisiana Supreme Court

On Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. CST, the Louisiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in State v. Covington...

An Unfair Fight

At the Orleans Public Defenders office, where Engelberg serves as trial chief, people find themselves represented by attorneys who are carrying burdensome caseloads in an office that lacks the funding necessary to provide an adequate defense for everyone it represents.