The Howsie Difference

"If we are going to reform our Criminal Justice System, we need to consider the people we are electing as Judges because they have the most significant direct impact on people's lives." - Judge Elliot Howsie

Judge Howsie has devoted his life to bring about meaningful change in our Criminal Justice System.  He's done so currently as a Judge, for seven years as the Chief Public Defender in Allegheny County, as an adjunct professor and a mentor for young attorneys practicing in our system.

Court of Common Pleas Judge

  • After his swearing in, Judge Howsie was assigned to the Family Division where he currently presides over cases involving Protection from Abuse Orders, custody matters, emergency motions, contempts, and any issue related to the dissolution of a marriage.

  • Due to judicial shortages, Judge Howsie was recently assigned to the Phoenix Court Docket, where he presides over the largest caseload in the entire Criminal Division. In Phoenix Court, Judge Howsie conducts cases involving felonies, misdemenors, and Driving Under the Influence offenses. 

  • While it is common practice for Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas judges to work exclusively in one division, Judge Howsie opted to retain his current caseload in the Family Division in order to reduce the likelihood of uncertainty and delay for the litigants. 

  • Notably, of forty four judges serving on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, only four of whom are African American and Judge Howsie is the only African American Judge serving in the Criminal Division.

The Public Defender's Office


  • Public defenders had incredibly high caseloads

  • Clients were languishing in jail, without meeting their attorneys

  • Absence of attorney training

  • Clients’ rights were being violated

  • Inefficiencies plagued the office and wasted taxpayer dollars

  • Lack of resources to represent the clients effectively

  • No representation during bail hearings

Before Howsie arrived at the Public Defender's Office:

The Howsie Difference

After seven years of Howsie's leadership:

  • Increased the number of supervisors in the office from 4 to 12 and increased accountability, supervision, and improved the overall quality of client representation

  • Second Public Defender’s Office in Pennsylvania to hire a full time Manager of Training to establish performance standards and provide training to the attorneys and support staff, thereby reducing caseloads

  • Established a recruiting program to attract more qualified attorneys

  • Assigned attorneys to Preliminary Arraignments. This resulted in an 18% reduction in jail admissions, and reduced the number of clients languishing in jail at an expense of $103 per day per inmate

  • For the first time in the history of the office, social workers were assigned to work with attorneys during preliminary arraignments in order to address issues related to drug and alcohol treatment, and mental health treatment, which typically contributes to clients becoming involved in the court system 

The Howsie Difference


Elliot began tutoring law students when he was in law school and working two full time jobs - his methods have been so successful that he has continued to help law students over the years and has become an Adjunct Professor at Duquesne School of Law.