ArchCity Defenders (ACD) is a holistic legal advocacy organization that combats the criminalization of poverty and state violence, especially in communities of color. ACD’s foundation of civil and criminal legal representation, social services, impact litigation, policy and media advocacy, and community collaboration achieves and inspires justice and equitable outcomes for people throughout the St. Louis region and beyond.
ArchCity Defenders envisions a society liberated from systems of oppression where the promise of justice and racial equity is realized; communities where our approach to public safety prioritizes investment in well-being, health, and transformation without relying on criminalization and incarceration; and people living freely in their communities, thriving regardless of their race or income.
In 2009, Thomas Harvey, Michael-John Voss, and John McAnnar co-founded ArchCity Defenders with a goal to prevent and end homelessness by providing free legal services to the poor and those experiencing homelessness. The model of holistic legal advocacy was pioneered by the Bronx Defenders in New York and includes providing civil and criminal legal services as well as connecting clients to social services all under one roof.
ArchCity Defenders began to address the gap in St. Louis-area legal services by providing free and holistic legal representation to individuals who would otherwise not have access to a public defender or legal aid attorney. Individuals with adequate means usually do not have a problem obtaining legal assistance, but asserting civil rights in the courts is virtually impossible for those without funds to hire a lawyer. At ArchCity Defenders, we aim to reverse this denial of basic civil rights by offering legal services to those who cannot otherwise afford them or access them in our community.
Who We Serve
ArchCity’s clients are inescapably targeted and punished by the criminal legal system of police, courts, and jails. Our clients experience many collateral consequences as a result of their interactions with the system — losing jobs, vehicles, and apartments, and facing large barriers to regaining housing and employment. ArchCity Defenders uses holistic legal advocacy to fight with our clients in court, help families rebuild their lives together, and bring civil rights lawsuits to challenge the direct abuses of the criminal legal system.
- 2019 St. Louis City NAACP Ina M. Boon Social Justice Award
- 2019 Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Coalition Award – Political Advocacy
- 2019 FOCUS St. Louis Emerging Alumni Award – Blake Strode, Executive Director
- 2019 Bellow-Charn Champion of Justice Awards – Emerging Leader Award – Blake Strode, Executive Director
- 2019 Missouri Lawyers’ Media Legal Champion Award – Lee Camp, Staff Attorney
- 2018 Thomas Merton Award – The Thomas Merton Center
- 2018 Empower Missouri Outstanding Organization Award
- 2017 Generate Health Alderman Gregory Carter Community Champion
- 2017 Missouri Lawyers’ Media Up & Coming Lawyer – Jacki Langum, Director of Advocacy
- 2017 Harvard Club of Saint Louis Community Service Award
- 2016 The Ethical Society of St. Louis Ethics in Action Award
- 2016 The National Benevolent Association Injustice Anywhere Award
- 2016 Public Justice Institute Trial Lawyers of the Year Award – Thomas Harvey and Michael-John Voss, Co-Founders
- 2016 FOCUS St. Louis What’s Right with the Region Award for Improving Racial Equity and Social Justice
- 2015 The Missouri Bar YLS Pro Bono Award – Stephanie Lummus, Managing Attorney
- 2014 National Association of Legal Aid and Defenders (NLADA) New Leaders in Advocacy Award
- 2014 Riverfront Times’ Best of St. Louis Best Lawyers Award
- 2013 Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (MACDL) Atticus Finch Award Honorees
- 2012 Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) Spirit of Justice Award Honorees
- 2011 Saint Louis University School of Law Public Interest Law Group (PILG) Excellence in Pro Bono Award
- 2011 The Missouri Bar Pro Bono Wall of Fame – Michael-John Voss, Co-Founder
- 2010 The Missouri Bar Diamond Level in Pro Bono Hours – Michael-John Voss, Co-Founder