Steve Benjamin is the founding partner of Benjamin & DesPortes. He also serves as Special Counsel to the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice (Judiciary) Committee, and is a member of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission. He is a Past President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a Fellow and Director of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, a Past President of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Mr. Benjamin was counsel in the landmark Virginia Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to forensic expert assistance at state expense for indigent defendants. In other cases, he argued through the trial courts and on appeal that Virginia’s mandatory fee caps on compensation for court-appointed counsel deprived indigent defendants of conflict-free representation, and he led the litigation and legislative effort to abolish those caps.
At the request of the Virginia Supreme Court, he helped establish and chair an annual Advanced Indigent Defense Training Seminar to draw top lecturers from across the country to train Virginia’s defenders at no cost. With his law partner, he won the non-DNA exoneration and release of a man serving a life sentence for a murder he did not commit, and he argued in the United States Supreme Court that a Richmond trespassing policy violated the free speech rights of public housing residents. He assisted the State Crime Commission in the creation of Virginia’s Writs of Actual Innocence, and after determining that criminal defendants throughout Virginia were routinely losing their appellate rights because of attorney error, he helped draft the procedure that was enacted by the Virginia General Assembly to restore those rights. When biological evidence was discovered in twenty years of old case files stored in Virginia’s crime laboratories, he helped persuade state political leadership to order statewide DNA testing. When the pace of that testing stalled, he worked to obtain the passage of two successive bills mandating effective notification of interested parties that this new evidence had been discovered. He is a recipient of the Virginia State Bar’s Lewis F. Powell Pro Bono Award in recognition of his years of indigent defense and efforts toward indigent defense reform. He is a frequent lecturer on criminal justice and defense issues.
Member: Virginia State Bar; United States Supreme Court; Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; United States District Court, Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia.
Partner, Benjamin & DesPortes, P.C.: Practice limited to criminal defense, appeals, and government affairs.
Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee, Special Counsel (2001 – )
Virginia State Crime Commission, Special Counsel (2002 – 2011)
Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, Member (Senate appointee, 2004 – )
Virginia Forensic Science Board, Member (Governor’s appointee, 2005 – 2013)
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers:
Vice-President (2009 – 2011)
Treasurer (2008 – 2009)
Secretary (2007 – 2008)
Board of Directors (2001 – 2007)
Chair (2005-2006), Indigent Defense Committee
Chair (2002-2004), Forensic Science Committee
American Board of Criminal Lawyers, Fellow
Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers:
Board of Directors (1994-2004)
American Bar Association, Member
Criminal Justice Section, Member
American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Fellow
Board of Governors (2017 – )
Bar Association of the City of Richmond, Member
Chief Justice’s (Virginia) Indigent Defense Training Commission:
Chair (2005 – 2012)
Virginia State Bar Professionalism Course, Faculty (2004 – 2006)
Univ. of Richmond School of Law Adjunct Faculty (1997-2004), Scientific Evidence
Va. State Crime Commission 2010 Law Enforcement Work Group (2010)
Va. State Crime Commission 2010 Protective Order Work Group (2010)
Joint Advisory Committee on Computer Crimes (2004)
Virginia State Crime Commission Task Force on 21 Day Rule (2003)
Virginia Supreme Court (OES) Magistrate Study Advisory Committee (2002-2003)
Virginia State Crime Commission Sub-committee on Execution of the Mentally Retarded (2002-2003)
Virginia State Crime Commission Indigent Defense Study Committee (2002-2003)
Virginia State Crime Commission Sub-committee to Reorganize Title 18.2 (Criminal Code) (2001)
Virginia State Crime Commission DNA Task Force (2000)
As the 54th President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Benjamin authored the following series of monthly columns for the The Champion, NACDL’s monthly journal for the criminal defense community. The Champion is also distributed to the federal judiciary and others with an interest in criminal justice. His August, 2012 column is an abridgement of his acceptance remarks after his installation in San Francisco in July, 2012.