Safeguard Justice




Ruling year info


President & CEO

April Frazier Camara

Main address

1901 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 500


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NTEE code info

Professional Societies, Associations (I03)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

NLADA is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. We provide advocacy, guidance, information, training and technical assistance for members of the equal justice community, especially those working in public defense and civil legal aid. For more than a century, we have connected and supported people across the country committed to justice for all.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Project to Advance Civil Legal Aid Collaborations: Non-LSC Federal Funding

Through our Project to Advance Civil Legal Aid Collaborations, supported by the Kresge and Public Welfare Foundations, NLADA increases civil legal aid’s capacity to apply for, receive, and manage federal grant programs that target low-income populations and allow legal services to fulfill program goals. It builds upon the efforts of the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable and the US Department of Justice Office for Access to Justice to demonstrate to federal agencies how civil legal aid can help meet program goals and improve delivery of services in areas such as health care, housing, and veterans' affairs.

Our work includes helping civil legal aid programs build strong partnerships with community organizations and state and regional government entities to deliver services. We also advocate with federal agencies to eliminate barriers to the use of federal funds for civil legal aid and with Congress to expand opportunities for non-LSC funding for civil legal services.

To help build civil legal aid’s capacity to secure federal grants, we have developed, which features federal grant opportunities for legal aid programs with easy-to-find information on: deadlines, eligibility requirements, and grant priorities; whether there is specific language on legal aid; relevant regulations and policies; and sample successful grant applications, memoranda of understanding, and other helpful documents.

Dedicated listservs to help answer questions about and support strategies for specific opportunities. The listservs currently focus on Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF), reentry grant programs, and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

The Restoration of Rights Project is an online resource that offers state-by-state analyses of the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to restoration of rights and status following arrest or conviction. It is a valuable resource for practitioners in all phases of the criminal justice system, for courts, for civil practitioners assisting clients whose court-imposed sentence has exposed them to additional civil penalties, for policymakers and advocates interested in reentry and reintegration of convicted persons, and for the millions of Americans with a criminal record who are seeking to put their past behind them.

This resource covers areas such as loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms rights, judicial and executive mechanisms for avoiding or mitigating collateral consequences, and provisions addressing non-discrimination in employment and licensing. Each jurisdiction’s information is separately summarized for quick reference. It also provides a set of 50-state comparison charts that illustrates national patterns in restoration laws and policies. Jurisdiction-specific information about organizations that assist individuals in securing relief and other third-party resources will be provided in the future.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) has partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to create an innovative pilot program that will train AmeriCorps VISTA members in best practices in Community-Oriented Defense and place them in public defense agencies in order to put these principles into practice and establish systems for ongoing sustainability. This AmeriCorps VISTA project allows NLADA, for the first time ever, to provide boots on the ground to in-need public defense offices in order to help offices modernize their approach to evidence-based practices, data management, and community partnerships. Over the course of their 12-month term of service, AmeriCorps VISTA members will perform activities such as building community partnerships within their host communities and developing data systems and analysis methods to drive evidence-based practices by their host organizations.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Because the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans, its policies, regulations, and compliance activities can have a profound effect on the ability of legal aid programs to deliver high-quality services. NLADA therefore advocates with the LSC and its board, participating in the rule-making process and taking other actions to support our LSC-funded members.

Our work includes:
1. Providing legal advice and assistance to individual and program members from Chief Counsel Chris Buerger and Vice President of Civil Programs Don Saunders.
2. Attending LSC’s quarterly board meetings in person, as well those held via conference calls, and monitoring committee and the full board meetings; updating the field on important developments and highlights of the meeting; and advocating for the field through public testimony at committee and board meetings.
3. Participating in LSC’s rulemaking process through steps such as monitoring all LSC rulemaking activity, preparing and distributing to our members summaries and analyses of LSC’s proposed regulatory revisions, organizing discussions among NLADA’s Regulations Committee and other interested stakeholders, such as the American Bar Association, about the potential impact of proposed regulatory and policy revisions, accessing skills of appropriate experts regarding proposed policy and regulatory changes, and drafting and submitting comments regarding LSC’s proposed regulatory and policy revisions.
4. Preparing memos and guides for members on new regulations, restrictions, advisory opinions, and program letters issued by LSC.
5. Monitor, provide guidance, and advocate for LSC programs monitored and investigated by the LSC’s Office of Program Performance, Office of Compliance Performance, and the Office of Inspector General.
6. Developing LSC Program Resources.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

For more than 100 years, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association has been on the forefront of the effort to promote excellence in the delivery of public defense and civil legal aid. Fair, effective pretrial practices that provide the highest manner of justice have been a central tenet of NLADA’s mission and its national standards for quality representation.

The Safety and Justice Challenge is an initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The initiative—an initial five-year, $100 million investment by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation—features a competition to help jurisdictions across the country create fairer, more effective local justice systems.

As a Strategic Ally of the Challenge, NLADA is working with defenders from each jurisdiction to promote their leadership and share essential information from the Challenge with the broader public defense community. NLADA will provide the following services and tools to the entire Challenge Network:

1. Toolkits, resource guides, training materials and webinars - developed with Challenge partners and sites - pertaining to pretrial justice and early access to counsel.
2. Peer-networking and information-sharing among Challenge Network defenders, and with NLADA's community of defender, civil legal aid, and client advocates.
3. Communications and strategic problem-solving support to inform, engage, and encourage broad public defense community participation in the Challenge.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

NLADA leads a broad network of advocates on the frontlines to advance justice and expand opportunity for all by promoting excellence in the delivery of legal services for people who cannot afford counsel. At the heart of this work are our values of diversity, equality, and inclusion – a recognition that the principle of racial equity must be present in our hiring decisions, in our practice, and in our engagement with our communities.

We do not conflate poverty with racism. To say that because the majority of our clients are persons of color, we necessarily perform racial justice work would be to simplify the difficult issues of poverty, racial injustice, and racial injustice that flows from poverty. These issues are neither proxies for one another nor are they mutually exclusive. In fact, the connection between the two is longstanding and deeply rooted in American history.

In commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Kerner Commission’s Report and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are reminded that economic and racial justice have long been connected and that one cannot be achieved while leaving the other behind. Dr. King’s words should push us forward in our work to secure justice and promote equality: “[M]ankind's survival is dependent on man's ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man's squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony.”

NLADA always recognized the importance of racial justice in its activities and the work of its members. Our joint statement on racial justice with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and our Fight Against Implicit Bias and Racial Inequality Pledge are our most recent steps to more clearly acknowledge that our work to provide access to justice for people who cannot afford counsel is advanced through our efforts to promote racial justice. NLADA now issues this action plan is intended to propel this work forward and commits NLADA and its members to: (1) speak with clarity about poverty and racial equity; (2) improve our internal governance to reflect the racial equity we seek to secure in our communities; and (3) support a purpose-driven practice that employs strategic advocacy to advance racial justice in our communities.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

NLADA is the only national organization whose resources are dedicated exclusively — and have been for more than a century — to advancing both civil and criminal justice for low income people.

Our pivotal goals include advocating for better policies and resources that make access to counsel - and access to justice - a reality for everyone. Our charge is to leverage resources, partnerships and information to revolutionize the equal justice delivery system.

NLADA’s mission, then as today, is simple: fulfilling the American promise of equal justice under the law.

NLADA engages a variety of strategies to help low-income people receive the legal representation they need. These strategies fall within three main categories: advocate, educate, and innovate. Critical examples include:
•Advocating with Congress, including educating and lobbying its members on the need to increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and other federal and state justice programs; preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; reform the criminal justice system.
•Advocating for inclusion of civil legal aid in federal grant programs that target low-income people, building upon the efforts of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable and U.S. Department of Justice Office for Access to Justice, and growing the capacity for civil legal services programs to apply for and manage these programs.
•Advocating with the LSC, the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States, on behalf of NLADA’s member LSC-funded organizations and their partners for LSC regulations, policies, procedures and oversight that maximize our members’ ability to effectively provide high-quality legal services in their client communities.
•Educating over 3,000 civil, client, and public defense leaders annually through in-depth training and networking opportunities, including in-person conference and trainings, as well as remote learning programs, such as webinars and teleconferences.
•Offering tailored legal advice, guidance, and technical assistance to our membership nationwide.
•Hosting an extensive database that provides free access to easily understandable documents about evidence-based practices and research results on civil legal aid and public defense.
•Working with a broad range of state, community, and national civil legal assistance, civil rights, and community-based organizations to advance racial justice and leadership development as core values in the civil justice community and to help low-income people have meaningful access to a full range of legal assistance services.
•Providing listservs and other communications vehicles that enable the civil legal aid community to communicate and strategize with each other about technological developments, racial justice, strategic litigation, federal and state substantive and procedural issues, and other emerging topics.
•Participating as amicus curiae in cases of critical importance equal justice practitioners.
•Scaling innovative solutions to public defense as a Strategic Partner to the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, as well as to civil legal aid practices.
•Expanding the Defending Communities in Service NLADA VISTA program to improve data systems, community engagement, and other critical best practices.
•Developing a response to the issues of court fines and fees.
•And much more!

NLADA is uniquely qualified to pursue equal justice for all. NLADA unites the civil, client, and public defense communities, thereby facilitating critical holistic solutions to barriers to justice. NLADA’s members include dedicated client leaders, civil legal aid attorneys, and public defenders.

NLADA also works closely with the pro bono community through partnerships with law firms as well as our very own Corporate Advisory Committee made up of top legal executives from companies across the country.

NLADA staff also benefit from over one hundred years of experience developing and scaling justice systems improvements. We have deep connections to partners from across all levels of government, community leaders, and private industry to pursue long lasting change.

For more than a century, NLADA pioneered access to justice at the national, state, and local levels, including helping create many of the first public defense systems in the country; developing and preserving the Legal Services Corporation; developing nationally applicable standards for legal representation; and advocating for groundbreaking legislation. We serve as the collective voice for our country's civil legal aid, client advocates, and public defense providers and offer high-quality advocacy, training, and technical assistance.

Today, advances in technology are shifting the landscape of access to justice. Online resources and innovative business models are attempting to bridge the justice gap that grows wider every day. Despite this, the need for legal aid outstrips the funding and infrastructure dedicated to it. At the same time, the legal system is ever more complex, often unnavigable without assistance, leading to growing calls for access to counsel for every person that needs it. NLADA is pursuing innovative solutions to engage technology and emerging leadership in scaling proven techniques to increase access to justice from diverse jurisdictions nationwide. Recognizing that it is impossible to achieve equal justice under the law without racial justice, NLADA is actualizing our racial justice action plan. You can explore details at



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Board of directors
as of 02/14/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Kelli Thompson

Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office

Term: 2017 -

Rosita Stanley

Rhodia Thomas

MidPenn Legal Services Administrative Office

Alison Paul

Montana Legal Services Association

Keir Bradford-Grey

Defender Association of Philadelphia

Shawntelle Fisher

SoulFisher Ministries

Stan German

New York County Defender Services

Gwen Hanley-Pamplin

Lillian Johnson

Community Legal Services, Inc.

Nalani Fujimori Kaina

Legal Aid Society of Hawaii

Regina Kelly

Max Laun


Jack W. Londen

Morrison & Foerster LLP

Clinton Lyons

NLADA Insurance Program

Kirby Mitchell

South Carolina Legal Services

John F. Schultz

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Ronald Simpson-Bey