David Patton

Partner | New York
T: (212) 763-0883
E: dpatton@kaplanhecker.com
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David Patton

David Patton is a partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink.

David is a highly accomplished trial attorney who has represented hundreds of clients in federal court during his 25-year career. David joined the firm after serving as Executive Director and Attorney-in-Chief of the Federal Defenders of New York for twelve years, in which time he oversaw the work of federal public defenders in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, with offices located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, White Plains, and Islip.

David has served as lead or co-counsel in dozens of federal trials. He has achieved outright acquittals in more than half of the federal cases he has personally tried to a jury. Those cases span a wide range of charges, including fraud, insider trading, drug trafficking, firearms, and counterfeiting. Between October 2022 and March 2023, David successfully represented a client in the first federal death penalty trial under the Biden Administration, which resulted in a life sentence. In July 2023, he concluded a deferred prosecution agreement on behalf of the lead defendant in a long-standing federal insider trading case about Medicare reimbursement rate changes. He had earlier tried the case, resulting in acquittals on the insider trading charges and a successful appeal on a variety of fraud counts.

In addition to his work as a trial lawyer and running the Federal Defenders of New York, David has been a prominent national figure in efforts to reform the criminal justice system. He has testified before Congress on multiple occasions, served as the chair of the federal defender legislative committee, and was a member of the national committee that guides policy on behalf of federal defenders. He has published scholarly articles on a variety of criminal justice topics in the Yale Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, Emory Law Journal, and Cardozo Law Review, among others.

From 2002 to 2008, David worked at the Federal Defenders of New York as a trial attorney in the Manhattan office. He left the office to pursue a career in academia, first as an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Alabama, where he taught Criminal Law, and then at Stanford Law School, where he created its first trial-level criminal defense clinic and was offered a tenure-track position. He left Stanford in order to return to the Federal Defenders of New York as Executive Director.

David is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a member of the American Law Institute. He is the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors, including the 2023 Norman S. Ostrow Award from the New York Council of Defense Lawyers, the 2020 Emory Buckner Medal from the Federal Bar Council, the 2018 Judge Robert Louis Cohen Award for Professional Excellence from the New York Criminal Bar Association, the 2017 Champion of the Community Award from Gideon’s Promise, and the 2013 Thurgood Marshall Award for Outstanding Criminal Practitioner from the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. City and State New York have named David to the “Law Power 100” list since 2021.

David is currently an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law where he teaches a seminar on legal ethics. He began his career as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell and served as a law clerk to the Hon. Claude Hilton, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he served as editor of the Virginia Law Review. David received his B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Select Publications

  • Criminal Justice Reform and Guns: The Irresistible Movement Meets the Immovable Object, 69 Emory L. J. 1011 (2020)
  • The Structure of Federal Public Defense: A Call for Independence, 102 Cornell L. Rev. 335 (2017)
  • Policing the Poor and the Two Faces of the Justice Department, 44 Fordham Urb. L.J., 1431 (2017)
  • Federal Public Defense in an Age of Inquisition, 122 Yale L.J. 100 (2013)

Select Amicus Briefs

  • Delilah Guadalupe Diaz v. United States of America (No. 23-14), Brief Amicus Curiae of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (2024)


  • B.A., University of Virginia, Dean’s Scholar, 1992
  • J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, Editor, Virginia Law Review, 1999


  • Hon. Claude Hilton, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Fellowships, Leadership & Recognitions

  • Norman S. Ostrow Award, New York Council of Defense Lawyers (NYCDL), 2023
  • “Law Power 100,” City and State New York, 2021- 2023
  • Emory Buckner Medal, Federal Bar Council (FBC), 2020
  • Judge Robert Louis Cohen Award for Professional Excellence, New York Criminal Bar Association, 2018
  • Champion of the Community Award, Gideon’s Promise, 2017
  • Thurgood Marshall Award for Outstanding Criminal Practitioner, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2013
  • Member, American College of Trial Lawyers
  • Member, American Law Institute
  • Member, SDNY Magistrate Judge Selection Committee
  • Board of Directors, Gideon’s Promise

Bar and Court Admissions

  • New York
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

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