Justine Olderman Stepping Down as Executive Director at The Bronx Defenders


Contact: Anthony Chiarito, media@bronxdefenders.org

(The Bronx, NY) – Today, Justine Olderman announced she will step down as Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders after six years at the organization’s helm, and after 23 years serving in various roles at the 25-year-old organization, from criminal defense attorney to Managing Director of the Criminal Defense Practice, and from Managing Director of the Organization to now its Executive Director. Her tenure will officially end December 31, 2023.

“The Bronx Defenders has been my professional home my entire career, and I am incredibly proud to have served alongside the most zealous, passionate, and innovative public defenders on the planet,” said Justine Olderman, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders. “When I was asked to lead the organization, I had three goals. One was to harness the power of our direct representation for even greater systemic change. Another was to hold a mirror up to ourselves, be honest about what we saw, and work even harder to live up to our values when it comes to race, class, power, and privilege. And the third was to cultivate strong leaders throughout the organization to help push us further and ensure stability in times of change. While the work is never done, we’ve made great progress towards these goals. Now, in keeping with our legacy of constantly redefining public defense, it is time for someone else to step up to bring new ideas, goals, and approaches to our work.”

“What makes Justine such an incredible leader and allowed her to push the organization to new heights is not just her fierce dedication to the people we represent and the values we espouse, but an unrelenting focus on the harms that our legal systems cause, and an unwavering determination to use every tool at our disposal to eliminate them,” said Earl Ward, Chair of the Board at The Bronx Defenders. “The Board thanks Justine for her leadership and is grateful that she has agreed to stay on for a time after her tenure officially ends to assist with the transition.”

Besides Justine’s achievements on behalf of thousands of people as a criminal defense attorney, she led the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic; embraced unionization and negotiated one of the most progressive collective bargaining agreements in the field; oversaw the development and implementation of major DEI initiatives; expanded BxD’s Early Defense program creating an off ramp to the legal system; deepened the organization’s community engagement work through the creation of the Bronx Cannabis Hub and the Bronx Leadership and Organizing Council; grew its policy and organizing work which helped secure bail and discovery reform, and the decriminalization of marijuana and driving with a suspended license; and steered several high-profile impact litigation cases that radically reduced ICE’s power to detain immigrants, held NYPD’s use of sealed records unconstitutional, ensured due process for people facing the loss of their home through the issuance of orders of protection, and securing a first-of-its-kind, pre-litigation settlement with the City for violating the rights of protesters.

As was done previously, The Board of The Bronx Defenders will hire an outside firm to conduct a national search for a new Executive Director. To help ensure a seamless transition, Justine Olderman will continue to support the organization as a consultant for a period of time after her tenure officially ends on December 31, 2023.