Job Opportunities

Prisoner & Legal Services Program Staff Attorney

Vacancy Announcement:
Pay Series:
PDS-11/12/13 (GS-11/12/13 Equivalent)
Opening Date:
Feb 4, 2021
Closing Date:
Mar 11, 2021
Public Defender Service
  for the District of Columbia
Community Defender Division
1442 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20003
Organization Description:
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, investigators, 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, is neither federal nor District of Columbia government employment, and all employees are at-will.

Division Description:

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 District of Columbia Superior Court. 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 (PRLS) program for adult clients and the Juvenile Services Program (JSP) for juvenile clients.

For adult clients, PRLS responds to the legal and social services needs of newly released individuals and others with criminal records, assisting them in making a successful transition back into the community. Further, CDD serves as the PDS liaison to individuals convicted of District of Columbia Code offenses and serving sentences in the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, Central Treatment Facility, 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 to provide assistance and guidance on parole and other release-related matters.

For juvenile 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.
Essential Duties:
The Prisoner & Reentry Legal Services Program (PRLS) Staff Attorney will primarily focus on providing advocacy and legal representation for clients who are incarcerated by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and for those who are facing obstacles to successful reentry following arrest, criminal prosecution, and/or incarceration. The PRLS Staff Attorney will be required to:

1. Represent adult clients in administrative hearings in the D.C. Department of Corrections, in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (requiring periodic out-of-state travel), and in the community (these hearings may be in person or virtual depending on circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic);

2. Represent adult clients in court proceedings, including a robust motions practice and oral advocacy, when applicable;

3. Represent, advocate for, and consult with people charged with and convicted of D.C. code offenses related to the institutional policies of the D.C. Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons;

4. Represent, advocate for, and consult with people seeking sentence reductions and modifications;

5. Represent, advocate for, and consult with people seeking to overcome the collateral consequences and civil barriers resulting from their DC criminal record on the laws and policies affecting their community reintegration and reentry;

6. Develop and implement resources regarding prisoners’ rights and reentry;

7. Perform program administration duties, including maintaining case records, correspondence, and reports as required;

8. Assist the PRLS Deputy Chief in the training and supervision of PRLS law clerks and interns;

9. Track developments in the law related to prisoner rights, collateral consequences, and reentry to provide internal and external updates and training to PDS and the community;

10. Participate in frequent CDD events, sponsored by PDS and community based organizations, with an emphasis on community outreach, engagement, and education related to the mission of CDD;

11. Adhere to supervision requests including but not limited to: division and program staff meetings, individual supervision meetings and evaluation, internal and external trainings, and participation in community events;

12. Perform other duties as assigned.
Required Qualifications:

J.D. or equivalent degree from an accredited law school; excellent research, writing, and oral persuasion skills; and membership in the District of Columbia Bar or eligibility to practice pursuant to either D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 49(c)(9)(B) or 49(c)(9)(C). Bar membership or eligibility to practice in D.C. should be specifically addressed in the cover letter. The candidate shall possess the ability to work independently and to maintain professional relationships with facilities staff; and excellent research, writing, computer and oral persuasion skills. In addition, the candidate shall possess the following:

  • Ability to work independently and creatively
  • Confidence for public speaking to address of a variety of audiences, including clients, administrative bodies, judges, community members, and stakeholders
  • Collaborative and supportive approach to working with coworkers and teammates
  •  Aptitude to develop and build interpersonal relationships with judiciousness and empathy
  • Strong research, writing, and analytical skills
  • Established organizational skills
  • Effective management of multiple projects and meeting deadlines
  • Ability to periodically travel
Preferred Qualifications:
Familiarity with Superior Court Criminal Division practice, administrative law practice, the laws and regulations governing criminal record sealing, parole and supervised release, as well as the rights of individuals who are sentenced and incarcerated pursuant to District of Columbia law.
How To Apply:
Applicants must submit: (1) a cover letter; (2) a resume that includes a list of three references (name, address, telephone number, and a statement of how each reference is able to evaluate your skills); (3) a legal writing sample, preferably a brief or other advocacy piece; and (4) an unofficial law school transcript*. Please submit your application materials as a consolidated PDF via "Apply To This Job."

*Finalists will be required to provide an official law school transcript prior to employment.

If you have any questions about the position, application or hiring process please contact Jennifer Thomas, Director of Legal Recruiting at (202) 480-0385 or

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