Balancing Our Criminal Justice System: From Reform Prosecutors to Public Defender Judges

Balancing Our Criminal Justice System: From Reform Prosecutors to Public Defender Judges

Session Type(s): Panel

Starts: Thursday, Oct. 7 3:45 PM (Eastern)

Ends: Thursday, Oct. 7 4:45 PM (Eastern)

The movement to elect reform prosecutors is redefining prosecution and reshaping our criminal justice system, but these efforts will not be fully realized unless we also bring balance to our courtrooms. Our judiciary has a stark over-representation of judges who were former prosecutors and corporate lawyers. At the federal level, Trump made the imbalance even worse, picking ten times as many former prosecutors as former public defenders and criminal defense attorneys. But now, President Biden is committed to bringing greater balance and already has nominated a record number of public defenders to serve as judges. In this panel, you will hear from reform prosecutors, public defenders, criminal justice advocates, and court experts about how our imbalanced courts affect reform, why we need more judges with a public defender perspective, and how we can educate and activate around this issue.

This session is sponsored by Demand Justice.



Megan French-Marcelin


Megan French-Marcelin, PhD serves as a Campaign Director in Criminal Justice and Democracy at Color of Change where oversees a portfolio that includes decarceration, pretrial reform, prosecutor accountability, and fighting voter suppression. Previously, Megan created and led JustLeadershipUSA’s WORKINGfuture Campaign, a campaign that seeks to dismantle barriers that amount to perpetual punishment for people with conviction records through state legislation and culture-shifting public education.

Megan also served as the ACLU’s Policy Research Manager, where she spearheaded the organization’s national reentry work, managing partnerships with corporations and workforce development agencies seeking to implement comprehensive fair hiring policies. She worked with grassroots organizations in several states to draft legislation on mental health diversion, occupational licensing, ban-the-box, and voting rights. Her analysis of legislative history was instrumental to enactment of new legislation spearheaded by VOTE-LA that restores voting rights to nearly 70,000 Louisianans on probation and parole.

Megan is the author of several reports and scholarly articles, including “Doing Business New Orleans Style: Racial Progressivism and the Rise of a Neoliberal Politic (2020, NYU Press), “Bullies in Blue: Origins and Consequences of School Policing (2016)” and “”If You Blight It They Will Come” (nonsite, 2016). She has worked with advocates across the country on issues ranging from alternatives to incarceration to juvenile justice and holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

my website

Angel Harris

Elected on Nov. 3, 2020 to the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Angel S. Harris previously served as Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., where her advocacy focused on capital defense, juvenile life without the possibility of parole, felon disenfranchisement and policing reform. Prior to joining LDF, Angel served as a Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project where she represented death-sentenced prisoners nationwide. Between 2009-13, Angel was a public defender in Louisiana (Orleans and Calcasieu Parishes). A nationally recognized expert on criminal justice and civil rights issues, Angel’s writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Huffington Post and she has provided commentary on “Democracy Now!,” “1A” and “The Roland Martin Show.” Angel is also the co-founder of the Black Womxn Lawyers Collective, a platform providing Continuing Legal Education courses with a comprehensive intersectional framework rooted in advocacy with and for womxn, children, and communities of color taught by Black womxn lawyers. Angel graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 2009 and summa cum laude from Hampton University with a B.A. in English. She is a member of the Louisiana State Bar.

Christopher Kang

Christopher Kang

Christopher Kang is Co-Founder and Chief Counsel of Demand Justice, which is building a progressive movement to restore balance and legitimacy to our nation’s courts.

Chris served in the Obama White House for nearly seven years, as Deputy Counsel to President Obama and Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. He oversaw the selection, vetting, and confirmation of more than 220 of the president’s judicial nominees—who set records for the most people of color, women, and openly gay and lesbian judges appointed by a president. Chris also was in charge of advising President Obama on commutations and pardons from 2014 to 2015 and helped spearhead the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and passage of the Fair Sentencing Act to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

Chris also has served as National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and worked for Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) for seven years, as Director of Floor Operations, Judiciary Committee Counsel, and Labor Counsel.

my website

Lawrence Krasner

Lawrence Krasner

Lawrence S. Krasner was officially sworn in on January 2, 2017, as the City of Philadelphia’s 26th District Attorney. Before being elected District Attorney, Mr. Krasner served of-counsel at Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt, and Flores, LLC. Larry was born in 1961 in St. Louis, the son of a World War II veteran and author father and evangelist mother. After attending public schools in St. Louis and the Philadelphia area, Larry earned degrees from the University of Chicago and Stanford Law School with the help of student loans and scholarships.

Mr. Krasner attended public school in the St. Louis and Philadelphia areas. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago in 1983 and his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1987, where he was selected to the Stanford Law Review. After multiple offers of employment in prosecutors’ and public defenders’ offices throughout the country, he worked as a public defender in Philadelphia from ’87 – ’91 and was then promoted to the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Philadelphia (’91- ’93). In 1993 he started his own private practice, specializing in criminal defense and police misconduct matters. He has remained in private practice ever since. During that time, Mr. Krasner has tried thousands of bench and jury trials in criminal and civil court in the Philadelphia area as well as other counties and states.

Throughout his 30 year career, Mr. Krasner has also proudly demonstrated a steadfast commitment to social justice, having defended protesters pro bono who were involved with movements including ACT UP, Black Lives Matter, progressive clergy with POWER, Casino-Free Philadelphia, DACA Dreamers, Decarcerate PA, anti-gun clergy with Heeding God’s Call, anti-poverty and homelessness advocates with Kensington Welfare Rights Union, Occupy Philly and Reclaim Philadelphia, and Grannies for Peace, among many others.

He has resided in Philadelphia for over 30 years with his wife of 28 years. His wife has been a judge of the Court of Common Pleas for 17 years. They have two adult sons.

Chiquisha Robinson


Ms. Robinson is a transformational leader who serves as the Deputy Chief for the Prisoner & Reentry Legal Services (PRLS) program in the D.C. Public Defender Service’ Community Defender Division. The Community Defender Division (CDD) provides legal advice, social services, and community education and outreach to adults and children who are in the post-adjudication stage of a criminal or juvenile delinquency case arising out of the D.C. Superior Court. Ms. Robinson manages a team of attorneys who respond to the legal and social services needs of newly released individuals and others with D.C. criminal records, assisting them in making a successful transition back into the community. Further, she serves as the Public Defender Service’s (PDS) liaison to individuals convicted of District of Columbia Code offenses who are serving sentences in the D.C. Department of Corrections, Central Treatment Facility, and Federal Bureau of Prisons, by providing legal information to assist these individuals, monitor their conditions of confinement, and provide legal representation in parole, early termination of supervision, and other release-related legal matters. Before joining the CDD, Ms. Robinson was a senior attorney in the Public Defender Service’ Trial Division handling only the most serious felonies. As a trial attorney, she was also a member of PDS’ nationally recognized Forensic Practice Group, which trains lawyers around the country on forensic and scientific matters. Ms. Robinson is also the Co-chair of the D.C. Reentry Action Network, a coalition of reentry direct service providers and the Co-Chair of the ABA’s Committee on Reentry and Collateral Consequences. She is also the Director of Social Policy and Advocacy for the Black Public Defender Association. Ms. Robinson is also the author of PDS’ new 900-page publication, The D.C. Reentry Navigator: Empowering You to Succeed with a D.C. Criminal Record. She is especially passionate about mentoring the next generation of advocates and does so by teaching Criminal Law as an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University. She received her law degree from Boston College Law School and her undergraduate degree (magna cum laude) from the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Ms. Robinson has an enduring commitment to the District of Columbia where she has passionately served people with D.C. criminal records in both the pre and post-adjudication phases of the criminal justice system for many years.