Job Opportunities

Paralegal Specialist - PDS 2021-26

Vacancy Announcement:
PDS 2021-26
Pay Series:

PDS-0950-12 (GS-0950-12)

Opening Date:
Dec 16, 2021
Closing Date:
Jan 21, 2022
Number of Vacancies:
Position Type:
Full-Time (Permanent)

Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
Community Defender Division
1442 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC. 20003

Who May Appy:
US Citizens or persons authorized to work in the United States as of December 16, 2021.

Salary Range: $87,198 - $113,362

Organization Description:

PDS Overview: 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 for indigent individuals who are charged with criminal offenses in the District of Columbia and face a loss of liberty.  PDS has approximately 200 employees, most of whom work at the main office at 633 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.  PDS’s staff consists of approximately 100 attorneys and approximately 100 social workers, investigators, administrative, and technical staff.  PDS is funded by federal appropriations, and all employees are entitled to participate in certain federal benefits plans: health and life insurance, federal retirement, and Thrift Savings Plan. Transferring employees will receive recognition of creditable federal service for leave accrual and retirement purposes. 

As part of PDS’s holistic approach to public defense, the Community Defender Division provides services to adults and children, primarily those who are in the post-adjudication stage of a criminal or juvenile delinquency case in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  In the context of evolving concepts of holistic public defense, PDS is continuing its expansion and enhancements to meet CDD’s mission and operations. CDD currently provides its services through two specialized programs – the Prisoner & Reentry Legal Services Program (PRLS) serves adults and the Juvenile Services Program serves children.

For adult clients, CDD’s Prisoner & Reentry Legal Services Program (PRLS) responds to the legal and social services needs of newly released people and others with criminal records, assisting them in making a successful transition back into the community.  Further, CDD serves as the PDS liaison to people convicted of District of Columbia Code offenses and serving sentences in the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, and Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities, to provide representation in designated administrative hearings, information on institutional policies and procedures to protect their rights, monitor their conditions of incarceration, and assistance and guidance on parole and other release-related matters.  

For child clients, JSP represents children at administrative due process hearings, provides in-person legal consultations for children at the District’s youth detention centers, and works with community organizations to develop reentry programs that address the special needs of children.

In addition to our extensive menu of legal services, CDD partners with the community and leads, advocates for, and advances policy on behalf of people living with a D.C. criminal or juvenile record. We seek to maintain a local presence in the communities we serve, and to form relationships with community members, community-based organizations, and community institutions (e.g., courts, schools, government, health care providers, and employers) to improve case outcomes and life outcomes for clients and to strengthen families and communities. Our goal is to solve systemic problems. We aspire to change policies that harm clients, families, and communities (e.g., policing practices that produce racial and ethnic disparities in arrest rates). We educate the public. We seek to describe the human impact of the criminal justice system to policymakers, journalists, and others so that the public can better appreciate the cost to individuals, communities, and the nation of “tough on crime” policies.

The work of this full-time position is intended to support the attorneys of the          Community Defender Division. The incumbent communicates with the division chief, deputy chiefs, staff attorneys of PRLS and JSP, investigative specialists assigned to CDD, administrative staff of CDD, staff attorneys of other PDS divisions, and other PDS support staff to meet organizational needs.

Please note that this position has temporarily been altered to (mostly) telework status during the pandemic until further notice. However, due to the nature of the work of this position, there may be times when it is necessary to report in person to complete assignments.

Essential Duties:

Major Duties: The incumbent reports to the Chief of the Community Defender Division    and the Deputy Chiefs for the Prisoner & Reentry Legal Services Program (PRLS)  and the Juvenile Services Program (JSP), and provides a number of Paralegal and Administrative functions to support the mission of the organization.  Duties of the position include, but are not limited to:

Legal Services

  1. Prisoner Correspondence: corresponds with people incarcerated in the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).


  2. Motions: drafts and edits routine and novel motions for filing in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DCSC) and other administrative bodies (e.g., United States Parole Commission, DYRS, D.C. Office of Human Rights).  Examples include, but are not limited to, motions to reduce a sentence (e.g., compassionate release, etc.), motions to correct inaccurate criminal records, motions to seal criminal records, and motions to suspend child support obligations.  Responsibilities also include ensuring the timely service and filing of motions.


  3. Research and Analysis: performs legal and non-legal research, including issues pertinent to prisoners’ rights, collateral consequences resulting from a D.C. criminal record, and interprets complex and/or novel rulings and opinions to determine applicability.  Research may be used in support of litigation, legal advice, and/or community workshops, trainings, and presentations.


  4. Document Production and Review: requests, reviews, and organizes client records in support of representation and litigation.  Documents include, but are not limited to, criminal and juvenile case documents, probation records, parole/supervised release records, social files, institutional records, educational records, medical records, and mental health records.  Mechanisms to request documents include, but are not limited to, subpoenas and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demands.


  5. Client Services: responds to client requests for information; contacts appropriate authorities at the various government agencies to respond to client inquiries; acts as liaison to other PDS divisions on client-related issues; contacts appropriate authorities at the BOP, DOC, and DYRS to set up attorney-client visits and attorney-client telephone calls; communicates with family members of clients, as needed.


  6. Hotline for Children in Detention: supports the legal hotline established to provide immediate access to legal consultations, advice, and representation to children detained by the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS).
Program Functions and Operations

  1. Community Events: participates in all CDD events, with an emphasis on community outreach, training, and education, consistent with the mission of CDD. This includes assisting at workshops for returning citizens and community members and attending events led by community based organizations and government agencies.  The incumbent maintains a flexible schedule to accommodate community events that are often scheduled during the evenings and weekends.


  2. Training: provides audio/visual assistance and prepares exhibits, materials, and PowerPoint presentations for training sessions conducted by division attorneys; creates synopses of cases relating to prisoners’ rights and reentry issues for use in training sessions on recent developments in the law; and develops training materials for internal use, official PDS trainings, and external trainings.


  3. Administrative Support: assists division staff regarding court-based electronic case filing system, case management, systems development, and data analysis.


  4. Performs other duties as assigned.
Required Qualifications:

Qualification Requirements:

  1. Bachelor’s degree or higher in criminal justice, law, public policy, political science, social work, psychology, and/or similar field from an accredited educational institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  2. Expressed and/or demonstrated interest and commitment to serving people living with a D.C. criminal record.
  3. Expressed and/or demonstrated interest in and commitment to serving people living in institutions and people living in the community.
  4. Expressed and/or demonstrated interest in and commitment to serving people at community events.
  5. Experience with legal and non-legal research.
  6. Experience utilizing Westlaw, LexisNexis, and/or an equivalent legal research tool or platform.
  7. Experience with editing and/or drafting routine legal motions and documents.
  8. Experience Blue Booking and cite checking legal documents.
Preferred Qualifications:

Highly Desirable Qualifications:  Additionally, the following achievements and/or experiences are deemed highly desirable and strongly preferred:

  • Completion of a Juris doctorate from an accredited educational institution.
  • Completion of a Post-graduate or professional degree in criminal justice, public policy, political science, social work, psychology, and/or similar field from an accredited educational institution.
  • Paralegal certificate.
  • Experience working with people living with juvenile and/or criminal records.
  • Experience working with children and/or adults who are incarcerated.
  • Experience working with people with post-adjudication/post-conviction issues.
  • Experience working with people with legal and/or social service needs to facilitate successful reintegration and reentry.
  • Experience with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia’s e-filing system, CaseFileXpress, or another e-filing court system in a different jurisdiction.
  • Experience utilizing criminal justice databases.
  • Experience with drafting and/or editing novel legal motions.
  • Demonstrated oral and written communication skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to thrive in a multi-faceted role that balances multiple assignments.
  • Spanish fluency (reading and writing).
Application Evaluation:

Rating: Your application package will be rated and ranked among other applicants based on your experience, education, training, and awards relevant to the duties of this position. Your rating can be lowered if your application package is not supported by the requested documents.

Referral: If you are among the top qualified candidates, your application package will be referred to a hiring manager for consideration, at which time you may be invited to participate in a selection interview.

Interview Structure:  Those who are selected for interviews will be required to interview via Cisco Web-X, Skype, or some other communications platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Benefits: PDS is funded by federal appropriations, and employees are entitled to participate in federal benefits plans, federal retirement systems, and the workers compensation program. Transferring federal employees will receive recognition of creditable federal service for leave accrual and retirement (if applicable) purposes. Benefits include:

Federal Employees Retirement Systems (retirement annuity)

Thrift Savings Plan (similar to a 401K program)

Federal Employees Health Benefits (health insurance)

Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (life insurance)

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program

Flexible Spending Accounts (for health care and dependent care)

Long Term Care

Transportation Subsidy

Employee Assistance Program

Federal Occupational Health (access to health clinic and services)

How To Apply:

How to apply: You must provide a complete application package which includes: (1) a cover letter and resume; (2) a copy of your college transcripts for each degree earned; (3) a list of three references that include name, address, telephone number, and a statement of how each reference is able to evaluate your skills; (4) a copy of your paralegal certificate (if applicable); and (5) a professional writing sample.  Please ensure your application package includes detailed information to support your qualifications for this position.  Failure to provide sufficient evidence in your application package and requested supporting documents could result in a rejection of your application package.

Application Portal

Please submit your application package through PDS’s online application portal found through the following link: 

To submit required documents, you must click on the “APPLY” button for Vacancy Announcement # PDS 2021-26 Paralegal Specialist.  You must also fully answer the Questionnaire found through the above linked website.  Additionally, the documentation you provide through your cover letter and/or resume must support your answers on the Questionnaire.  Application packages submitted with missing information and/or responses to the Questionnaire can negatively affect referring your application package to the hiring manager.  PDS will not accept application packages by email, mail, fax, or personal delivery.

For applicants with disabilities, this organization provides reasonable accommodations which will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, proof of full vaccination against the COVID-19 virus is a condition of employment with the exception of those who apply for and receive a reasonable accommodation based on their health (disability) or sincerely held religious belief as reasons for not being vaccinated.  To request a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application or interview process, please contact Steve Yu, Lead HR Specialist at (202) 824-2339 or at

PDS is an Equal Opportunity Employer and an E-Verify Participating Agency

PDS is an Equal Opportunity Employer and E-Verify Participating Agency.