Criminal Justice

Davis Polk works on a wide range of criminal justice matters, allowing our lawyers the opportunity to represent clients in trials or appeals, and to conduct policy and research work. 

Working with the Legal Aid Society and other organizations that advocate on behalf of indigent defendants, our lawyers represent clients in appellate and other post-conviction advocacy, including habeas corpus and 440 motions and advocate on behalf of wrongfully convicted individuals. We advise on matters including setting standards for indigent defense work and we work on various clemency initiatives.  

We serve as counsel to the New York State Justice Task Force, a permanent body created by New York State Chief Judge Lippman to examine the causes of wrongful convictions and recommend reforms. Additionally, we are a founding member of the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Pro Bono Project. 

Other projects have been undertaken in conjunction with the Criminal Justice Act Panel in the Southern District of New York and the Innocence Project. 

We offer our mid-level litigation associates the opportunity to participate in internship programs at the Kings County D.A.'s Office and the Legal Aid Society.

  • Criminal justice matters made up nearly 20% of our total pro bono work in 2015.

Death Penalty

Davis Polk has long provided pro bono legal representation to individuals on death row.

This history includes our representation of Joseph James in the 1977 case in which the New York Court of Appeals held the New York death penalty statute unconstitutional, changing the trajectory of future death penalty cases.

We have also successfully appealed the death sentences of several inmates from across the nation.