Job Opportunities at PDS
Immigration AttorneyApply Now
About The Job
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 who are facing a loss of liberty in criminal, delinquency, and mental health legal matters in the local District of Columbia legal system but who are financially unable to obtain adequate representation. PDS’s approximately 200 attorneys, social workers, investigators, and administrative and technical staff collaborate with each other to advance the PDS mission. PDS’s main office is located at 633 Indiana Avenue, NW, 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, and the Thrift Savings Plan. Transferring employees will receive recognition of creditable federal service for leave accrual and retirement purposes. Employment at the Public Defender Service is neither federal nor District of Columbia government employment, and all employees are at-will.
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.
These positions are located in the Trial Division. Staff attorneys in the Trial Division zealously represent adults in criminal proceedings in the District of Columbia Superior Court (Superior Court) and children in delinquency matters. Attorneys are assigned to specific levels of cases based on experience and performance. As a result of intensive supervision and ongoing training, attorneys generally progress over the course of several years from litigating juvenile delinquency matters to litigating the most serious adult offenses.
The most seasoned attorneys in the Trial Division handle complex and resource-intensive adult cases. Senior PDS attorneys routinely handle cases involving DNA evidence, expert testimony, multiple-count indictments, and novel or complex legal matters. This group of highly trained litigators provides representation in the majority of the most serious adult felony cases filed in the Superior Court each year.
Less senior Trial Division staff attorneys handle the most difficult or resource-intensive delinquency cases (i.e., those with serious charges or children with serious mental illnesses or learning disabilities), and handle some general felony cases and a limited number of misdemeanor cases. Trial Division staff attorneys also provide representation in a wide range of other legal matters through PDS’s Duty Day Program and the Superior Court’s Drug Court Program.
PDS is structured to advance its commitment to holistic defense. Thus, while the majority of the clients for these positions have cases in the Trial Division, these positions will sometimes have clients whose matters are in one of PDS’s other five legal divisions. Additional information about those divisions can be found on the PDS website at: https://www.pdsdc.org/about-us/legal-services.
This is a full-time term position eligible for remote work. Due to the pandemic, PDS is on a maximum telework schedule until October 2022. Beginning in October, we expect this position to shift to a more on-site schedule, 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 these positions, 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.
PDS seeks two full-time immigration attorneys to continue developing and implementing PDS’s immigration advisal practice pursuant to Padilla v. Kentucky, 359 U.S. 356 (2010). The immigration attorney is a member of the client’s defense team and their advisal work is central to the team’s work for PDS’s noncitizen clients because decisions at multiple stages of the case can impact a client’s immigration status. In addition, the extensive intersections and partnerships between D.C. and federal criminal system agencies make contact with the local criminal system uniquely fraught for clients who are not citizens. The immigration attorneys’ advisal work and role are closely integrated into the work of the Trial Division, but can also extend to advising PDS attorneys in other divisions. The attorneys in this position will not represent individuals in removal proceedings, but the positions will require appearances in DC Superior Court for pending criminal matters.
- Advise PDS attorneys and their clients in both written and oral form on the immigration consequences of pending criminal cases.
- Assess clients’ current immigration status and available relief from deportation.
- Perform legal research on the immigration consequences of D.C. Code offenses.
- Identify alternative dispositions that minimize the immigration consequences for clients.
- Assist attorneys with crafting legal arguments and strategies to avoid triggering immigration consequences for PDS clients.
- Advocate on behalf of clients in court and in negotiations with prosecutors.
- Provide immigration law support to attorneys at arraignments, evidentiary hearings, during the plea agreement negotiation process, and at other stages of the representation where the client’s immigration status could be adversely affected by a representational decision or where immigration issues could be used to adversely affect the outcome of the client’s criminal case.
- Develop claims for immigration relief for noncitizen clients to present in immigration court.
- Work to place cases with pro bono immigration attorneys and actively build relationships with the pro bono community.
- Advise compassionate release and IRAA clients regarding immigration options.
- Advise PDS duty day clients on the immigration consequences of sealing arrest records and other criminal and immigration matters.
- Advise CJA and pro bono immigration attorneys on the immigration consequences of their clients’ pending cases during “immigration duty day,” the scheduling and frequency of which the attorneys will determine in consultation with the Trial Chief and PDS Director.
- Develop trainings on immigration law and the DC criminal legal system and participate as requested in PDS-sponsored or supported trainings for attorneys, other legal staff, and community organizations.
- Create written training materials and practice advisories on immigration law basics as a resource for PDS colleagues and other attorneys.
- Update the immigrant defense program section on the PDS website.
Additional Opportunities for Representation.
The immigration attorneys have opportunities to provide representation on other types of matters depending on their interests and essential duty caseloads. Examples of work done by previous immigration attorneys include:
- Representing noncitizen clients in post-conviction litigation.
- Seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status predicate findings in DC Superior Court on behalf of clients with juvenile delinquency cases where appropriate.
- Representing noncitizen clients in affirmative immigration applications before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- Engaging in policy advocacy and community education regarding immigration enforcement in the DC criminal justice system.
Note: Representation in removal proceedings is prohibited by federal statute and is not a possible representation opportunity at PDS.
- J.D. or equivalent degree by May 2022. (If the applicant is not a member in good standing of a Bar at the time of application to the position, their degree must be from an ABA-approved law school.)
- Excellent research, writing, and oral persuasion skills.
- Immigration law experience, preferably with expertise in criminal-immigration law or deportation defense.
- A demonstrated commitment to serving low income populations, and preferably to serving criminalized populations.
- 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 they submit their application. See D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 46(b)(1). (It is acceptable if the applicant sat for a July Bar exam in a UBE-jurisdiction and is awaiting the results.) D.C. Bar membership or eligibility to apply for admission to the D.C. Bar should be specifically addressed in the cover letter.
- Fluency in Spanish.
Number of vacancies:
PDS 11/12/13/14 (GS-11/12/13/14 equivalent)
Starting Salary Range: $79,945 - $134,649
Promotional Potential: If this position is filled at a lower grade, incumbent will have promotion potential to AD-14 (GS-14 equivalent).
How to Apply:
If you have questions or require assistance with the application please contact:
Jennifer Thomas, Director of Legal Recruiting
Human Resource Specialist
Forensic Social Worker/Forensic Professional Counselor
Legal and Administrative Support Assistant
Mental Health Investigator
Criminal Law Internship Program (CLIP)
Social Work Internship with Mental Health Division
Spring Law Clerkship
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 Equal Opportunity Employer and E-Verify Participant.