Lancaster County First Assistant Public Defender Samuel G. Encarnacion to Receive PBA Civil and Equal Rights Champion Award

HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 29, 2024) — Samuel G. Encarnacion, first assistant public defender, Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office, will receive the annual Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Civil and Equal Rights Champion Award at an awards ceremony on May 9 during the PBA Annual Meeting in Hershey.

Developed by the PBA Civil and Equal Rights Committee (CERC), this award honors an individual who champions for civil rights for all Pennsylvanians by making a significant impact through constitutional advocacy, legislative acts or advocacy or individual representation and development of case law.

For more than 30 years, Encarnacion has served as a public defender in Lancaster. In his role, he represents adults, many of them in indigent circumstances, in various criminal cases, ranging from capital murder to summary offenses potentially resulting in incarceration. In addition, he has been an associate at Haggerty Silverman & Justice PC, a personal injury firm in Lancaster, for 10 years. Previously, he was a partner at Spahn & Encarnacion in Lancaster for more than 12 years, where he addressed diverse legal matters.

Recently, Encarnacion was appointed to the newly established Pennsylvania Indigent Defense Advisory Committee created through an initiative by Gov. Josh Shapiro. The program’s goal is to offer better defense services for individuals who cannot afford legal representation.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion was raised in Puerto Rico. Combined with his ability to speak English and Spanish, his cultural insights help him assist clients from diverse backgrounds.

Beyond his legal practice, Encarnacion is a past chair of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Committee on Rules of Evidence, and member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Language Access Advisory Group, American Bar Association Leadership Fellows Program and Spanish American Civic Association. He is also an instructor for the Trial Skills Training Program cosponsored by the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania and Penn State Dickinson Law, and a death-penalty certified advocate.

Within the PBA, Encarnacion serves as co-vice chair of the Technology Committee created by PBA President Michael J. McDonald, and as a member of the Government Lawyers, LGBTQ+ Rights, Minority Bar and Quality of Life/Balance committees. He also served as an at-large minority governor on the PBA Board of Governors and a former chair of the PBA Insurance Fund and Trust, a role for which he received a PBA Special Achievement Award.

To foster inclusivity and collaboration within the legal community, Encarnacion initiated the first combined social gathering between the PBA and the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania.

As a mentor and tutor for more than 29 years, Encarnacion works closely with young lawyers to cultivate their trial skills and passion for justice. One of his nominator’s said: “Sam is a champion, not just because of his success in protecting people’s civil and equal rights, but because he has planted dozens of seeds in the minds of the younger generation to ensure that there is always someone fighting the good fight.”

One of Encarnacion’s notable accomplishments includes his representation of a juvenile lifer offender in York County, where he achieved a significant legal victory by overturning a conviction and sentence because of prior legal inadequacies. The landmark resolution led to the client's parole in 2020 after 16 years in prison, and the case was featured in a documentary. Encarnacion did not participate in the documentary's production; however, his role in the case underscores his commitment to justice and advocacy.

Encarnacion earned his Juris Doctor from The University of Texas School of Law and his bachelor's degree in political science and government from The University of Texas at Austin.