Jonathan Rapping

President/Founder of Gideon's Promise (formerly The SPDTC)

Greater Atlanta Area
Nonprofit Organization Management

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Jonathan Rapping's Overview


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Jonathan Rapping's Experience


Gideon's Promise

Nonprofit; 1-10 employees; Professional Training & Coaching industry

March 2007Present (7 years 7 months) Atlanta

As a former Training Director of Public Defender
Service for the District of Columbia, Jonathan Rapping
called upon his 10+ years of experience to design the 3-year comprehensive Core Program training model for new public defenders, and with the assistance of our most seasoned SPDTC faculty members, Rapping has designed a graduate-level training program for participants who have
completed the Core program.

Associate Professor / Founding Director, Honors Program in Criminal Justice

John Marshall Law School, Atlanta, Georgia

Educational Institution; 51-200 employees; Higher Education industry

August 2007Present (7 years 2 months) Greater Atlanta Area

- Teach Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Advanced Criminal Procedure
- Coach, Mock Trial Team (2007-08 and 2008-09)
- Member, Academic Standards Committee
- Former Member, Faculty Development Committee and Faculty Recruitment Committee
- Faculty Adviser, Public Defender Club

Director for Training and Recruitment

Orleans Public Defenders

Government Agency; 51-200 employees; Legal Services industry

November 2006July 2007 (9 months) Greater New Orleans Area

Served as a member of the management team responsible for reforming the public defender office in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Had primary responsibility for recruiting legal and non-legal staff as well as for designing and running training programs for all professional staff.

Legal Services industry

November 2004October 2006 (2 years) Greater Atlanta Area

Training Director for Georgia’s state-wide public defender system, established on January 1, 2005. Responsibilities include designing and running training programs for staff across the state, overseeing recruitment efforts, and creating resource materials for public defenders. Also established the Honors Program to recruit and train lawyers to work in rural public defender offices, and designed curriculum for all new attorneys.

Deputy Trial Chief, Training Director

Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia

Government Agency; 51-200 employees; Law Practice industry

April 2001August 2004 (3 years 5 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area

Developed and implemented the agency’s annual, eight-week training program for new staff attorneys. During this eight-week period, had primary responsibility for teaching new attorneys trial skills and substantive legal topics. For the remainder of the year supervised less experienced attorneys, designed training sessions for the agency and the criminal defense community in general, and handled a caseload of serious felonies. Lectured on a variety of topics to professional organizations and law school, undergraduate, and high school students.

Adjunct Professor, E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program

Georgetown University Law Center

Educational Institution; 1001-5000 employees; Higher Education industry

October 2001June 2004 (2 years 9 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area

Taught trial advocacy to E. Barrett Prettyman Fellows. Fellows both represent indigent criminal defendants in D.C. Superior Court and supervise third year clinical students.

Lead Attorney for Domestic Violence and Sex Offenses

Public Defender Service

Government Agency; 51-200 employees; Law Practice industry

July 1999March 2001 (1 year 9 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area

In addition to handling a caseload of felonies, responsibilities included supervision and training of staff and coordination of training on relevant topics for the criminal defense bar in the District of Columbia.. Developed an expertise in the intersection of criminal and family law, engaged in appellate litigation involving related issues, participated on numerous panels and focus groups, and trained and lectured to professional organizations and law school, undergraduate, and high school students. Served as defense bar representative on a number of Committees in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia including the Domestic Violence Advisory Rules Committee, The Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee, and The Domestic Violence Implementation Committee.

Staff Attorney

Public Defender Service

Government Agency; 51-200 employees; Law Practice industry

October 1995June 1998 (2 years 9 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area

Responsible for handling caseload of felony, misdemeanor and juvenile cases pre- and post-trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Jonathan Rapping's Skills & Expertise

  1. Criminal Law
  2. Community Development
  3. Grant Writing
  4. Instructor-led Training
  5. Advocacy
  6. Interpersonal Leadership
  7. Building Relationships
  8. Strategic Planning
  9. Mentoring
  10. Curriculum Design
  11. Performance Measurement
  12. Civil Litigation
  13. Trials
  14. Human Rights
  15. Criminal Defense
  16. Trial Practice
  17. Fundraising
  18. Family Law
  19. Juvenile Law
  20. Appeals
  21. Nonprofits
  22. Public Policy
  23. Immigration Law
  24. Program Development
  25. Civil Rights
  26. Criminal Justice
  27. Litigation
  28. Training
  29. Courts
  30. Community Outreach
  31. Mediation
  32. Legal Writing
  33. Legal Research
  34. Westlaw

View All (34) Skills View Fewer Skills

Jonathan Rapping's Publications

  • National Crisis, National Neglect: Realizing Justice Through Transformative Change

    • University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change
    • February 10, 2010
    Authors: Jonathan Rapping

    In this paper I argue that there is a role for the federal government to play in ensuring that the right to counsel, a principle central to the value system of our nation, is realized by all of its citizens. I further argue that an effective strategy for achieving the promise of Gideon must include investment in the human resources (i.e. the public defenders) necessary to carry out this mandate. Through the development of a generation of public defenders who embrace the values consistent with excellent representation, we can ensure that these lawyers for the poor will both begin to deliver on Gideon’s promise immediately as well as develop into the future leaders necessary to hold the states accountable for their failures to meet their constitutional obligations. In this paper I discuss the work of the Southern Public Defender Training Center, an organization dedicated to building a community of reformers through the recruitment, training, and mentoring of a new generation of public defenders in the region. I then introduce a bold new initiative called the Public Defender Corps, committed to building on the work of the SPDTC to create a national movement through a public defender fellowship program and suggest that there is a significant role for the federal government to play in supporting this effort. Finally I suggest that without an effort to groom a new generation of public defenders committed to the work and the clients they serve, financial and structural fixes, while necessary, will not be sufficient to bring about the reform needed. I advocate a national push to transform the existing culture of indigent defense as part of any comprehensive reform strategy.

  • You Can’t Build on Shaky Ground: Laying the Foundation For Indigent Defense Reform Through Values-Based Recruitment, Training, and Mentoring

    • The Harvard Law and Policy Review
    • February 25, 2009
    Authors: Jonathan Rapping

    Across the country, indigent defense systems fail to provide poor criminal defendants with competent representation. While reformers have focused on structural and funding problems, they have largely overlooked the central role of a culture that encourages lawyers to ignore values fundamental to our system of criminal justice. Where lawyers do not practice in accordance with these values, they fail to provide constitutionally adequate representation. This article argues that, while structural and financial considerations are critical to efforts to ensure constitutional standards are met, they cannot transform a value-system that accepts sub-standard representation. Reformers must devise a strategy to change this value-system. The article further argues that an effective transformation strategy will require grooming a new generation of lawyers who will spearhead efforts to usher in a new system of values. It suggests a three-prong approach to accomplishing this objective: value-based recruitment, values-based training, and values-based mentoring. Finally the article illustrates how this theory can be put into practice by examining a model, based on this approach, implemented in the South.

  • Directing the Winds of Change: Using Organizational Culture to Reform Indigent Defense

    • The Loyola University New Orleans Journal of Public Interest Law
    • February 16, 2009
    Authors: Jonathan Rapping

    The single-most important factor to an organization's success is the cultural environment that defines it. Business schools have taught future business leaders this lesson for twenty-five years. While business leaders have worked to manage the culture of their corporations, leaders in the indigent defense arena have often failed to understand the concept of culture. As a result, rather than public defenders defining the culture of indigent defense, the culture of indigent defense has defined the public defender, most often to the detriment of the client. In few places was this more apparent than in Pre-Katrina New Orleans.

    This article looks at indigent defense in Pre-Katrina New Orleans and argues that cultural factors were largely responsible for an exceedingly low standard of representation provided to indigent defendants there. It then looks to lessons that can be gleaned from business, sociology, and anthropology regarding the importance of culture to the success of an organization and explores a theory of cultural transformation. Finally, using hypothetical scenarios based on the Pre-Katrina experience, this article applies organizational culture theory to suggest methods to overcome the cultural crisis facing indigent defense nationally.

  • Who’s Guarding the Henhouse? How the American Prosecutor Came to Devour Those He is Sworn to Protect

    • Washburn Law Journal
    • June 10, 2012
    Authors: Jonathan Rapping

    Every day, all across America, prosecutors charge people with crimes that the criminal justice system is not sufficiently funded to handle. Most of the accused are indigent citizens forced to rely on the services of over-burdened public defenders. In a system that lacks the resources to resolve these cases at trial, or even to spend the requisite capital at the pre-trial stage, prosecutors have found creative ways to process the vast majority of these cases without the expense associated with providing the accused actual justice. With an ever-expanding list of behaviors and actions deemed criminal, and increasingly harsh sentencing options for these offenses, prosecutors are able to put pressure on most criminal defendants to give up many of their most fundamental Constitutional rights and plead guilty to avoid potentially draconian outcomes. While many prosecutors see this as a cheap and effective way to justly punish wrongdoers, this course of action has largely replaced our reliance on principles of justice such as the right to counsel, the right to trial by jury, and the role of an independent judiciary determining a punishment that fits the crime. By undermining basic principles of justice so crucial to our legal system, one might ask whether this way of handling criminal cases is antithetical to the prosecutor’s critical role as minister of justice.

    This article argues that when a prosecutor charges more cases than he knows the system can justly resolve due to resource limitations, he violates his ethical obligation to seek justice. It further argues that many prosecutors fail to appreciate how they violate their duty to justice because of a culture that promotes this behavior. Finally, it suggests that prosecutors must be trained to resist these systemic pressures, and to act in accordance with values consistent with justice, if they are to fulfill their intended role in the criminal justice system.

  • Redefining Success as a Public Defender: A Rallying Cry for Those Most Committed to Gideon’s Promise

    • The Champion/ National Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers
    • June 2012
    Authors: Jonathan Rapping

    "What does it mean to be successful as a public defender? Every public defender has good days and bad, and how we distinguish between them has everything to do with how we answer this question. Eighteen years after beginning my career as a public defender, I am still redefining my view of what it means to be successful as a public defender..."

  • Street Crimes, Stress, Suggestion: Helping The Jury See What The Witness Does Not

    • The Champion / National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
    • June 2011
    Authors: Jonathan Rapping

    Topics covered:
    A. Factors Contributing to Unreliable Eyewitness
    B. Discovering Factors That Help Jurors Understand Unreliability
    C. Developing the Proper Narrative: Theories and Themes
    D. Helping the Jury Understand

Jonathan Rapping's Honors and Awards

  • Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow

    Harvard Law School
    • January 2009

    -One of nine Wasserstein Public Interest Fellows recognized for their contribution to the public interest legal community.

    -Recognized for the work of the Southern Public Defender Training Center and our efforts to build a new generation of public defenders in the South.

  • Invited Participant, Public Defense Leadership Focus Group

    US Dept. of Justice (BAJ); NLADA; American University
    • September 2008

    One of twenty-four national experts in the field invited to participate in a focus group, sponsored by the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance in partnership with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and American University, to explore strategies for improving the quality of indigent defense nationwide.

  • Lincoln Leadership Award

    Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy
    • June 2007

    Co-recipient of the Lincoln Leadership Award, given by Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy, for leading the reorganization and rebuilding of Orleans Parish Public Defender System following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.


    Soros Foundation
    • March 2007

    Awarded a Senior Justice Advocacy Fellowship by the Soros Foundation to support the development of the Southern Public Defender Training Center.

Jonathan Rapping's Education

Allderdice HS

Princeton University

Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.), Economics and Public Policy

The George Washington University

Doctor of Law (J.D.), Law

Activities and Societies: Member, Student Trial Lawyers Association Board

University of Chicago

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Grade: Cum Laude

Jonathan Rapping's Additional Information

Groups and Associations:

- Member, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - Member, National Legal Aid and Defender Association - Member, Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - Member, American Bar Association - Advisory Boad member, American Constitution Society (GA Chapter) - Member of Committee on Indigent Defense, Georiga Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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