Matt Dugan was appointed the Chief Public Defender of the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender in January 2020 after serving as the Acting Chief Public Defender since May 2019. Matt began his career with the Public Defender’s Office in February 2007 as a trial attorney. In 2013, he was promoted to the position of trial manager and became Deputy of the Pre-Trial Division in March 2016. Beginning in September 2018, he assumed the role of Chief Deputy Director.
Matt has spent his career in the Public Defender’s Office and has implemented several transformational projects cementing that office’s leadership role in criminal justice reform in Allegheny County.
Project Reset - Started in 2019 to provide expungements to former clients free of charge. The process for obtaining an expungement is both confusing and expensive and those burdens often lead to clients not bothering to seek expungements they are entitled to after a criminal charge has been withdrawn or dismissed. Project Reset seeks to eliminate these barriers to justice by aiding clients with expungement motions and saving them nearly $300 in fees. Since 2019, nearly 2,000 motions have been filed.
Preliminary Arraignment Project - Began in 2018 with a MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Grant, this program requires attorneys from the Pre-Trial Division of the Office of the Public Defender to represent all individuals at their Preliminary Arraignment at Pittsburgh Municipal Court. Since going into effect, there has been an 18% decrease in jail bookings at the time of arraignment; a 39% decrease in the use of cash bail; and, a 10% increase in the “concurrance rate” - the rate at which the Magisterial District Judges comply with the bond recommendations set by Pre-Trial Services.
Education Advocacy Project - Began in 2021, the Juvenile Division of the Office of the Public Defender expanded its services by implementing the Educational Advocacy Project (EAP). Through this program, the division represented over 100 children before magistrates and closed more than 150 summary cases, where only 8 clients had to pay a fine. Most children were permitted to complete community service or attend a class as a means of being held accountable. This process allowed staff to identify multiple education-related problems, such as the need for an interpreter or enrollment assistance. In many cases, EAP staff intervention resolved the problem and school districts withdrew pending truancy citations. EAP staff also participate in Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individual Support Plan (ISP) meetings, attend disciplinary and expulsion hearings, work with the parents and children to address disability-related educational needs, and attend juvenile court hearings to speak on the child's behalf.
Matt is a graduate of the Duquesne University School of Law where he received the CALI Award for excellence in Trial Advocacy and earned his bachelor’s degree from Villanova University. He and his wife, April, and their three sons live in Moon Township, where Matt was an elected member of the Moon Area School Board from 2017-2021. He serves on the Criminal Procedural Rules Committee for the state following his appointment by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2019 and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School.