Inside the Courtroom

Paul Hetznecker Experience Inside the Courtroom

Mr. Hetznecker has devoted his professional career to advocating for the rights of his clients inside the courtroom. Regardless of the crime, each person charged has the right to a zealous attorney. Whether protecting the rights of the accused in the criminal justice system, or vindicating those rights as a civil rights lawyer, Mr. Hetznecker affirms his role as an advocate. "Advocating for my clients, I serve as one of many guardians in this watch over the power of the state, protecting the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, one client at a time."

Paul J. Hetznecker began his career as a staff attorney with the Defender Association of Philadelphia in 1987. After several successful years in the major trial division, Mr. Hetznecker was appointed to the Special Defense Unit, assigned to handle complex and high profile cases. Since entering private practice in 1993, Paul J. Hetznecker has aggressively defended his clients in both federal and state court. With a wide ranging federal practice, Mr. Hetznecker has secured acquittals in numerous federal cases including fraud, drug conspiracy, weapons charges, bank robbery, extortion and assault. In addition to his victories at trial, Mr. Hetznecker has saved his federal clients thousands of years of incarceration through skillful negotiation and creative advocacy at sentencing.

In state court Mr. Hetznecker has successfully represented thousands of clients charged with everything from first degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, kidnapping, and drug and weapon charges to rape, sexual assault, fraud, theft, and racketeering.

Pro Bono Representation

For more than two decades Paul Hetznecker has offered his services to hundreds of political and labor activists, including mushroom workers in Chester County, The Brandywine Peace Community, The Catholic Worker, Pennsylvania Abolitionists Against the Death Penalty, along with numerous anti-war, animal rights and environmental activists. In 2000, Paul Hetznecker, along with a team of pro bono lawyers, successfully represented hundreds of protestors arrested during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. From 2011 through 2013, again with a team of pro bono lawyers, Paul Hetznecker successfully represented members of Occupy Philly movement charged with various offenses stemming from their political protests.

Outside the Courtroom

Paul Hetznecker Working Outside the Courtroom Lancaster Protest Up Against The Law Press conference

In addition to the fight for justice inside the courtroom, Mr. Hetznecker has fought for social justice outside the courtroom. During the 1990's Mr. Hetznecker offered advice and counsel to the Lifer's Organization at Graterford prison, as well as numerous peace and social justice organizations.

Following the revelation of illegal government surveillance of anti-war activists in 2006, Paul J. Hetznecker, along with area peace groups and the American Civil Liberties Union,(ACLU), helped to organize the "Don't Spy on Me" campaign. This effort was designed to raise awareness regarding unlawful government domestic surveillance.

In 2010, following the disclosure of internet surveillance of more than 300 groups and individuals by a private company working for the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security, Paul J. Hetznecker along with numerous other organizations, including the ACLU, started the First Amendment Network. This group has served as a watchdog, raising public awareness and providing information regarding surveillance of activity that is protected by the First Amendment. For Paul J. Hetznecker, the fight for justice inside the courtroom is directly connected to the quest for social justice in our society.

More recently, Mr. Hetznecker successfully represented environmental activists fighting against fracking and the pipeline construction in Lancaster County.

Co-Founder of the X-Philly Defenders, an association of former staff attorneys from the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

Paul Hetznecker Presenting the 2012 Benjamin Lerner Award

Paul J. Hetznecker presenting the 2012 Benjamin Lerner Award for Lifetime Achievement to civil rights attorney David Rudovsky, Esq.

President of the Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

Teaching Experience

Paul Hetznecker Teaching Experience Paul Hetznecker Teaching Civil Rights and Liberties Poster Paul Hetznecker Teaching Mass Incarceration and Death Penalty Poster Paul Hetznecker Teaching Surveillance Poster Paul Hetznecker Teaching Civil Rights, Liberties, and Law Poster

Paul J. Hetznecker is currently an adjunct professor in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Department at Arcadia University. Mr. Hetznecker teaches courses in Criminal Law and Procedure, Civil Rights, and Surveillance.

Arcadia University Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice Faculty

Life After Life

Feb 24, 2012

A standing-room only audience gathered in a lecture room in Hilles Hall on Wednesday night for a panel discussion. The event, titled "Life After Life: Reflections on Justice," was sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) and featured Tyrone Werts, who spent much of his adult life in prison on a murder charge.

Pennsylvania's "life means life" policy, which mandates a life without parole sentence for defendants convicted of first and second degree murder, was one of the evening's most heavily discussed topics. Paul J. Hetznecker, a Philadelphia-based civil rights and criminal defense attorney, stressed the importance of the defense attorney as the last line of defense for the constitution, particularly when juries are denied the information that a second degree murder guilty verdict carries a guaranteed life sentence.

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Notable Cases

Paul Hetznecker Advocating Across Numerous Notable Cases
2023: Paul Hetznecker and a team of lawyers representing over 240 plaintiffs attacked by Philadelphia Police Department during the George Floyd Black Lives Matter protests that occurred in West Philadelphia on May 31, 2020 and on the highway I-676 on June 1, 2020, settled the case for $9.25 million dollars. This was the largest protest related settlement in the history of Philadelphia.
2022: Paul Hetznecker filed a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia for a brutal attack on a young college student observing the Walter Wallace protests in October 2020.
2021: Paul Hetznecker settled a police involved shooting on behalf of the Estate of Dennis Plowden Jr. for $1.2 million dollars. Mr. Plowden was shot and killed by a police officer following a high- speed chase in December 2017.
2021: Paul Hetznecker and a small group of dedicated social justice lawyers established a Restorative Justice program to provide an unprecedented outcome for hundreds of those arrested during the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests last spring.
2020: Paul Hetznecker organized a group of more than two dozen experienced criminal defense attorneys along with the Defender Association of Philadelphia to provide coordinated representation for the more than 600 people arrested during the period of social unrest last spring.
2020: Paul Hetznecker organized a group of civil rights lawyers to represent more than 240 plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit against the Mayor of Philadelphia, the Police Commissioner and the City of Philadelphia. In addition to damages for the injuries suffered, this massive lawsuit seeks to achieve significant reform of the Philadelphia Police Department. for the police attack on peaceful protesters on I-676 on June 1, 2020 and residents in West Philadelphia on May 31st 2020.
2019: Secured a Not Guilty verdict in federal court for a client charged with armed bank robbery.
2018: Sued the Secret Service for violating a protestor's First and Fourth Amendment rights during the Democratic National Convention.
2018: Represented the lead defendant in a six week federal trial on drug conspiracy charges. The jury hung on the conspiracy charge of conspiracy.
2018: Forced the federal government to withdraw the defendant's statement by asserting a violation of Miranda rights while challenging the credibility of the FBI agent.
2018: Secured dismissal of four counts of attempted murder on behalf of a client after winning a motion to suppress physical evidence.
2018: Settled excessive force claim for $600,000 against two Philadelphia Police Officers for shooting an armed driver during a vehicle stop.
2018: Third Degree murder conviction reversed by Penna. Supreme Court based on a motion to suppress the contents of cell phone litigated by Mr. Hetznecker.
2017: Secured a new trial from a federal judge for a defendant convicted of robbery and serving a twenty-five year sentence.
2017: Settled case for $750,000 against two Homicide Detectives for a coercing a confession from the plaintiff who was acquitted in a double homicide.
2016: Settled civil rights case on behalf of Occupy Philly plaintiffs suing on behalf of their First Amendment rights.
2016: Settled wrongful death case on behalf of a person allegedly armed and fleeing police.
2015: Following a lengthy investigation by Mr. Hetznecker into client's self-defense claim, the prosecution dismissed the murder charges.
2015: After defeating the City's motion for summary judgment, Mr. Hetznecker settled a wrongful death case on behalf of the estate of a mentally ill inmate released in the middle of the night.
2014: In a high profile white collar federal prosecution, Mr. Hetznecker's client was acquitted of all twenty counts charging conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud.
2014: Settled a civil rights case for $2.5 million against the City of Philadelphia police department for the killing of an unarmed passenger in a stolen vehicle and the wounding the driver.
2014: Following a defense investigation succeeded in getting a federal drug indictment dismissed before trial.
2013: Part of a team of lawyers that secured acquittals for 12 Occupy Philly protestors arrested inside Wells Fargo Bank.
2013: Secured acquittals on 13 of 14 counts on behalf of a defendant in the biggest RICO conspiracy prosecution of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Family in a decade. The jury could not reach a decision on the remaining count.
2012: Secured an order for de-certification for a juvenile accused of murder. The defendant will now be tried as a juvenile instead of facing the prospect of forty years in an adult prison.
2012: Filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia Police Officers for killing an unarmed passenger in a stolen car.
2012: Settled civil rights case against the Philadelphia prison system for failing to protect a vulnerable inmate from the sexual assault by his cellmate.
2012: Represented Occupy Philly activists, securing acquittals in three prosecutions, based on the First Amendment.
2010: Represented six peace activists arrested at the Army Experience Center. All six were acquitted on First Amendment grounds.
2008-2010: Represented members of the Anti-Racist Network charged with criminal mischief and conspiracy. Successfully argued a motion to disclose the identity of undercover agents.
2008-2010: Represented an animal rights activist on appeal to the Third Circuit following his conviction for conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act.
2008: Settled a wrongful death, civil rights suit against the Philadelphia Police Department in the choking death of a suspected drug dealer.
2007: Represented peace activists arrested inside the building housing the office of U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. All were acquitted on First Amendment grounds.
2006: Secured an acquittal for the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Streets Department, the highest ranking member of Mayor John Street's administration indicted in the federal corruption probe.
2006: Secured the acquittal on behalf of a protestor arrested during the BIO 2005 convention.
2005: Represented a Muslim American in a two year investigation by the F.B.I. terrorism task force. The indictment against her was eventually dismissed.
2004: Defended an animal rights activist in a several cases, including a federal investigation.
1993 - 2004: Represented nine members of the MOVE organization in post-conviction proceedings stemming from the 1981 conviction of the murder of a Philadelphia police officer.
2002: Defended protestors charged with riot, assault and conspiracy.
2001: Sued the City of Philadelphia on behalf of two dozen protestors arrested in the "Puppet Space" during the Republic National Convention. The civil rights suit was based on violations of both the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
2001: Successfully defended a man charged with first degree murder based on false memory syndrome. After twelve years of pre-trial litigation the charges were eventually dropped.
2000: Successfully represented dozens of protestors arrested during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. With a team of lawyers secured acquittals for dozens of protestors.
1999: On First Amendment grounds, secured acquittals for the Abolitionist Seven, a group of anti-death penalty activists charged with obstructing the administration of justice.
1998: Settled wrongful death case on behalf of the estate of inmate against the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
1998: Successfully sued a suburban township police department for a profile stop on behalf of an African-American Court of Common Pleas judge from Philadelphia.
1997: Settled a wrongful death, civil rights suit against the Philadelphia police department in the shooting death of an armed civilian.
1996: Sued the City of Philadelphia Department of Corrections for sexual harassment on behalf of two female prison guards.
1995: In a highly publicized case, saved the life of a man charged with capital murder in the killing of his wife.
1995: Capital murder trial, saved the life of a man charged with killing a Philadelphia Police Officer.
1994: Secured acquittals for two members of the Catholic Worker Organization, protesting the closing of churches in impoverished neighborhoods.
1993: During a campaign to unionize in Chester County, successfully defended two dozen mushroom workers charged with various offenses, including riot and conspiracy.
1992: One of the first lawyers in Pennsylvania to have his client exonerated of rape and sexual assault pretrial, through DNA testing.