Patricia Puritz has worked as a child advocate in the juvenile justice system for 40 years and stepped aside from serving as the founding and executive director of the National Juvenile Defender Center in 2015. NJDC is an organization devoted exclusively to ensuring excellence in juvenile defense and promoting access to justice for all children. Prior to that, Ms. Puritz was the director of the American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center. She has been involved in designing, implementing, managing and monitoring programs to reform the nation's juvenile justice system, with a particular focus on delivering effective legal services to children and improving the conditions under which children are confined. For the last 15 years Ms. Puritz has placed particular emphasis on devising strategies to ensure that children have adequate access to competent counsel throughout the duration of the court process. The National Juvenile Defender Center was created to serve as a clearinghouse and resource center for lawyers that defend children and it delivers a range of training, technical assistance, leadership and capacity-building activities designed to improve juvenile indigent defense systems nationwide.
Ms. Puritz was appointed to a 4-year term on Virginia's Board of Juvenile Justice by former Governor Mark Warner and re-appointed by Governor Tim Kaine; she co-chaired the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Juvenile Justice Committee, and served on many boards of directors and advisory committees including the Gideon Project of the Open Society Institute, the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, the Guidelines Implementation Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Juvenile Regional Services (now known as Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights) and the DC Exchange -- a nonprofit organization that advocates for youth in the justice system in Washington, D.C. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers named her the 2004 Champion of Indigent Defense; she was the 2006 recipient of the American Bar Association's Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award; she received the 2007 Public Service Award from the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review of Harvard Law School; she was named the 2015 NJDC recipient of the Robert E, Shepherd Jr. Award for Excellence in Juvenile Defense; and received the 2015 Lifetime Award in Juvenile Justice Reform from the National Juvenile Justice Network. For many years, Ms. Puritz has played a significant role in advising and assisting the Department of Justice with matters related to strengthening and enhancing the nation’s juvenile indigent defense systems.