Founded in 1949, Harvard Defenders is one of the largest and oldest student-practice organizations at Harvard Law School. Each year approximately 85 Harvard Law students volunteer to provide pro-bono representation to low-income defendants in criminal show-cause hearings and assist callers with other legal issues through our extensive referral network.
Harvard Defenders is the only legal service organization in Massachusetts that represents low-income defendants for free in criminal show-cause hearings. Each year, we represent clients accused of a wide variety of crimes, including assault and battery, larceny, shoplifting, assault with a dangerous weapon, criminal harassment, and identity fraud. In addition, for those with legal issues not related to show-cause hearings, Defenders’ full-time telephone referral service helps callers understand their legal needs and directs them to other legal service agencies.
All substantive student casework is supervised by attorney John Salsberg, who has served as Harvard Defenders Clinical Instructor since 1980. Through individual instruction and group meetings, John provides continual support, training, and oversight to students who meet with him regularly to discuss case details and develop appropriate case strategies.
Student advocates in Harvard Defenders provide free representation to low-income individuals accused in criminal show-cause hearings before clerk magistrates. We seek to reduce the harm of the criminal legal system on community members through client-centered, compassionate, and persuasive legal practice.