Implicit Bias Training for Public Defenders

The Equal Justice Society Public Defender Training Program

A counter-bias training tailored to Public Defenders, Appellate Defenders, Juvenile Defenders, and Dependency Court Advocates

The training is a deep dive into the mind science of implicit bias as well as a study of manifestations of bias in the criminal process and its impact on defendants. The training includes an exploration of internal bias and organizational biases and their impact on our individual practice and outcomes for our clients. It is structured, in part, as a workshop that offers practical tools for managing and countering our individual biases and the institutional biases embedded in the workplace.

In addition, the training will hone the Defenders’ ability to spot and confront bias in police procedure and prosecutor decision-making and offer strategies for bringing procedural bias to the court’s attention through pre-trial advocacy and motion practice. During the workshop, facilitators will work with Defenders to develop a trial advocacy plan that reduces procedural bias and preserves issues of bias for appeal.

This training can be paired with a counter-bias training for Appellate Defenders. In addition to the base training, it includes a survey of the jurisprudence on appellate remedies for procedural bias. The training will develop the Defenders’ ability to spot bias in the pre-conviction process and to translate those issues into effective appellate arguments.


What People Are Saying

Jennifer L Maples, Supervising Assistant Public Defender, DuPage County (Illinois) Public Defender – Thank you so much for your presentation and training on implicit bias for our office. It was FANTASTIC. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from our office. It was extremely valuable for us to learn ways to use this information in our representation of our clients. A lot of people are excited to try some of your suggestions in our upcoming trials (whenever those resume!). I really appreciate you presenting and hope to collaborate again someday.

Oakland-based Criminal Defense Attorney Shaffy Moeel, Esq., The Moeel Law Office – “Last year, I asked Chris and Lisa to help me challenge a federal sentencing enhancement against my client that would have doubled his sentence.  They worked closely with me in identifying an investigation plan and developing legal arguments in support of a motion to dismiss for selective prosecution.  Chris and Lisa were instrumental in helping me think broadly to identify key stakeholders from whom we should solicit support.  Throughout my time working with them, Chris and Lisa were readily available to meet, to brainstorm, to answer my questions, and provide litigation support.  They prepared an excellent amicus brief in support of the motion that we developed together.  Ultimately, passage of the First Step Act and the threat of having to defend against a motion for selective prosecution based on race led the government to dismiss the sentencing enhancement against my client.  This saved him years off of his sentence.  My client and I are truly grateful to Chris, Lisa and the EJS for being such an important resource in his case.”

Stanford University Professor – “I’ve taught at Stanford for over a decade now and for so many different departments and programs. Most all have attempted to address those issues in some form, but I’ve never witnessed a more informative, powerful, and empowering talk. I only wish I had heard it sooner.”

The Facilitators

Chris Bridges is a former program manager at the Equal Justice Society where he also served as our lead implicit bias trainer. Chris presented more than 60 implicit bias trainings across the country to a variety of audiences including, lawyers, state and federal judges, parents, teachers, community organizations, mediators, medical professionals, construction workers, and more. Chris’s focus on the intersectionality of various mind sciences including implicit and explicit biases help ground his social and racial justice advocacy efforts to combat inequity.

Chris is currently the Program Counsel with the Education Equity Team at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee continuing his work on disparate school discipline and discrimination issues. Chris began his legal career in 2012 with the ACLU of Northern California as the Racial Justice Project Fellow, where he worked on school-to-prison pipeline issues as a member of the Education Equity team. Chris started at EJS as the Butler Koshland Fellow and was later hired full-time to focus his advocacy on school discipline and education issues as well as inequities within the criminal justice system. Chris is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law. He also holds an MS in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and a BS in Political Science and BA in Criminal Justice, both from North Carolina Central University.

Lisa Holder, Equal Justice Society
Lisa Holder is President of the Equal Justice Society

Lisa Holder is President of the Equal Justice Society, the Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit transforming the nation’s consciousness on race through law, social science, and the arts. Lisa succeeded Eva Paterson who retired on August 31, 2022.

Lisa has been part of EJS’s legal team since 2016 as Of Counsel. She served as Interim Legal Director from November 2018 through April 2019. In these various roles, she has been an invaluable part of our litigation and advocacy to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and to bring race equity in the workplace and workforce.

In May 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Lisa to serve on the first-of-its-kind Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, formed by the Governor’s signing of AB 3121, authored by then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber. The bill established the nine-member task force to educate the public about slavery and its history and pernicious aftereffects in California and make recommendations on how the state could provide reparations. This Summer, the Task Force released a stunning 500-page interim report that surveys the history of anti-black discrimination in America and serves as the scholarly underpinning for the reparations legislation.

Lisa has been a nationally recognized, award-winning trial attorney since 2000, and has developed expertise in cases involving employment discrimination, police misconduct, and international human rights violations. She was named by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star from 2005-2008.

Lisa is also a recognized racial justice scholar and equity consultant. She is a UCLA Law Lecturer and previously taught their Civil Rights Clinic. As an adjunct professor at Occidental College, she created the curriculum for a class on the prison industrial complex. Lisa also serves as a legislative consultant on institutional bias elimination.

In 2019, Lisa was a primary advocate and consultant in the drafting of AB 241 and 242 (Kamlager), the laws that now require all judges, attorneys, court staff and health professionals to undertake continuing education on reducing implicit bias. In 2020, she served as a steering committee member for the Proposition 16 campaign to repeal California’s ban on affirmative action.

Lisa is a recognized Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) scholar and has designed and implemented diversity solutions and implicit bias trainings for non-profits, government entities, private equity, Hollywood film and television companies, and public defender offices across the country. This year she spearheaded the EJS team in producing an MCLE counter-bias training video for California attorneys.

Previously, Lisa worked as a Los Angeles Deputy Alternate Public Defender and as a law clerk for the Equal Justice Initiative. She served on the ACLU of Southern California Board of Directors for four years and is currently Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Child Care Law Center.

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree at Wesleyan University, Holder graduated from New York University School of Law as a distinguished Root-Tilden Scholar.