Episode 15 – A Vote for Justice




Former President Barack Obama once said, “There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter.” With the 2021 Midterm elections approaching, co-hosts Jonathan Rapping and Ilham Askia dive into the topic of voting and its impact within our criminal legal system. Joining us this week is Derwyn Bunton, Chief Public Defender of Orleans Public Defender! Mr. Bunton has been a longtime supporter of Gideon’s Promise and has been influential in changing the status quo within his New Orleans office.

This episode features an in-depth discussion about the importance of voting, how public defenders are impacted by our current legislation, and why electing judges who have a background in public defense is so crucial to transforming our criminal legal system.




Derwyn Bunton is the Chief District Defender for Orleans Parish (New Orleans), Louisiana leading the Orleans Public Defenders Office (OPD).

Prior to becoming Chief Defender, Derwyn was the Executive Director of Juvenile Regional Services (JRS).  JRS was the first stand-alone juvenile defender office in the nation, and the first non-profit law office devoted to juvenile justice reform and front-line juvenile representation.  Derwyn is also the former Associate Director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), a nonprofit juvenile justice reform and advocacy organization.  Derwyn graduated from New York University School of Law in 1998.

From 2000 to 2005, Derwyn aided in monitoring the settlement agreement between the United States Department of Justice, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, private plaintiffs and the State of Louisiana regarding Louisiana’s juvenile prisons.  Derwyn was part of the litigation team that sued Louisiana over the conditions of its juvenile prisons.

During Hurricane Katrina, Derwyn was part of a team of advocates and lawyers assisting the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice, and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections designed to locate and reunite youth and adults evacuated to multiple DOC facilities across the state after being trapped by floodwaters in the Orleans Parish Prison in the wake of Katrina.

Appointed in 2009, Derwyn has led OPD to be among the most highly-regarded public defense programs in the country and a leading voice for public defense and criminal justice reform. He is the 2015 recipient of the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ prestigious Justice Albert Tate Award.

In 2020, Derwyn was honored to be named the chairman of the National Association for Public Defense.



  • Why are state and local elections so important?
  • Why is it important to elect judges who have a public defense background?
  • How has legislation impacted public defender offices, specifically in New Orleans?

Gideon’s Promise: The Podcast can be found on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud,  YouTube and on the Gideon’s Promise website.



Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice (2020) by Jonathan Rapping.