Job Opportunities at PDS
Civil Litigation AttorneyApply Now
About The Job
PDS was the first indigent defense program in the nation to protect clients facing criminal prosecution from the collateral consequences of their involvement in the criminal justice system by providing them counsel in related civil proceedings. PDS’s civil practice is founded on the understanding that there is a direct and immediate relationship between the criminal legal system, race, poverty and injustice. Thus, our civil practice is centered around a model of representation that addresses client needs beyond liberty, guilt and innocence. PDS’s Civil Division handles a wide array of civil matters arising from our criminal defense practice. This civil work can include housing related litigation, civil forfeiture defense, tort defense, child custody, employment, bankruptcy, civil protection order cases, restitution proceedings, civil contempt proceedings, child abuse and neglect proceedings, and special education advocacy. While these are the most common types of cases the Civil Division handles, our practice is eclectic due to the complexity of our clients’ lives and has, for instance, included work in interpleader litigation over the right to receive life insurance benefits, guardianship issues, specific performance suits, wage theft litigation, and probate issues. The Civil Division has six attorneys. Three of the Division’s lawyers handle general civil litigation matters referred from one of PDS’s other divisions. The Division has three lawyers who focus exclusively on special education cases. Representation is provided in both judicial and administrative forums. The Civil Division’s lawyers handle active litigation matters and also provide counsel and advice to lawyers in PDS’s other divisions to assist clients in resolving the many civil issues that can arise in the context of a criminal or juvenile case.
The Civil Division’s general civil practice is both sophisticated and complex, and includes every phase of litigation, including discovery, use of experts, pretrial motion practice and trial work. It is sophisticated because of the level of attention, trial preparation, and resources the Division is able to bring to bear on each case that it handles. Team defense is practiced at PDS. Depending on the nature of the criminal matter and its posture, there is frequently close coordination with the criminal defense attorney. PDS’s resources allow us to staff even complex civil cases. For example, the Civil Division has utilized the services of medical experts, drug addiction experts, housing experts, psychologists, forensic experts (in the area of cell phone and tower data analysis), DNA experts, fingerprint experts, child abuse/pediatric medical experts, and even a cultural anthropologist in a child abuse and neglect case. Our Civil Division attorneys have ready access to the Trial Division’s Forensic Practice Group to assist with certain types of scientific evidence.
Beyond being interdisciplinary, the Civil Division’s general civil practice is also made complex because many cases generate questions that affect a client’s criminal procedure protections. Fifth Amendment concerns are implicated in any case where the client has a parallel criminal case pending or potential criminal exposure. As an initial matter, this means in many cases clients are not available to testify in the civil case. More broadly, what is done in the civil case, for example in discovery, implicates the Sixth Amendment’s Assistance of Counsel and Right to Present a Defense Clauses, each of which strongly protect against requiring the defense to disclose its evidence, strategies or theories to the government. Because these constitutional safeguards can be adversely impacted by how the civil case is handled, these concerns necessarily drive many tactical and strategic decisions in the Division’s civil cases. This dynamic adds a layer of complexity to discovery. Thus, civil discovery and work-product issues abound in many of our cases. The cases are intellectually challenging and require the highest level of skills to navigate these issues and achieve good outcomes for our clients.
Civil Division generalists must be able to work on a broad array of civil issues and be comfortable lawyering in unfamiliar areas of the law, often with short notice or on an emergency basis. Further, the attorney must be able to work well with clients and work collaboratively with colleagues in the Civil Division and across PDS’s other Divisions. Other responsibilities include assisting in the preparation of practice guide materials on civil issues for use by PDS’s other Divisions and advising PDS attorneys in other Divisions on a wide array of civil legal issues.
COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement: The PDS COVID-19 vaccination policy requires as a condition of employment that all employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive from PDS a reasonable accommodation due to a disability or sincere religious belief. If you are offered a position and decide to join PDS, then before starting work at PDS you will be required either (A) to submit proof that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to your initial HR representative or (B) to request and receive an accommodation due to disability of sincere religious belief.
Work Schedule: This is a full-time permanent on-site position with some remote work. The exact mix of in-person and remote work will depend on the needs of the Division, assignments that must be performed in person (e.g., court hearings, client visits in detention facilities), and office space availability. For this position, it will be the responsibility of the attorney to ensure that any remote work they perform complies with the ethical and practice requirements of the remote jurisdiction.
J.D. and minimum of two years of general civil litigation experience. A federal or state court appellate or trial court level clerkship that was primarily served on a civil docket may substitute for one year of the general litigation experience.
• Excellent research, writing, and oral advocacy skills.
• A demonstrated commitment to serving low-income populations, and preferably to serving criminalized populations as a public defender, civil rights attorney or Legal Services attorney
• A willingness to practice in a holistic team defense model of advocacy.
• Membership in the District of Columbia Bar or eligibility to apply for admission to the D.C. Bar at the time you submit your application. See D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 46(b)(1). D.C. Bar membership or eligibility to apply for admission to the D.C. Bar should be specifically addressed in the cover letter.
Number of vacancies:
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The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) is a federally funded, independent organization; governed by an eleven-member Board of Trustees, PDS provides legal representation to individuals facing a loss of freedom in the local criminal, delinquency, and mental health systems in the District of Columbia. PDS’s approximately 235 attorneys, social workers, investigative specialists, administrative, and technical staff collaborate with each other to advance the PDS mission. PDS’s main office is located at 633 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. District of Columbia residency is not a requirement for employment. PDS is funded by federal appropriations, and all employees are entitled to participate in the federal health and life insurance plans, the federal retirement plans (FERS, FERS-RAE, FERS-FRAE, CSRS, CSRS-Offset), and the Thrift Savings Plan. Transferring employees will receive recognition of creditable federal service for leave accrual and retirement purposes. Employment at PDS is neither federal nor District of Columbia government employment, and all employees are at-will.
PDS is an E-Verify participating agency. Please see the Right to Work Poster and the E-Verify Participation Poster for more information.
PDS is an Equal Opportunity Employer and E-Verify Participant.