Job Opportunities

Special Litigation Division Attorney - PDS 2022-01

Vacancy Announcement:
Pay Series:
PDS 11/12/13 (GS-11/12/13 equivalent)
Promotion Potential: If this position is filled at a lower grade, incumbent will have promotion potential to PDS-13 (GS-13 equivalent).
Opening Date:
Jan 6, 2022
Closing Date:
Feb 7, 2022
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 who are facing a loss of liberty incriminal, delinquency, and mental health justice matters in the local District of Columbia justice system but who are financially unable to obtain adequate representation. PDS’s staff consists of approximately 100 attorneys and approximately 100 social workers, investigators, administrative, and technical staff. Most employees work at the main office 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 certain federal benefit plans: health and life insurance, federal retirement, and the Thrift Savings Plan. Employees with creditable federal service will receive recognition of that service for leave accrual and retirement purposes.

Employment at the Public Defender Service is at will and is neither federal nor District of Columbia government employment.

Division Description:

The Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service is dedicated to addressing recurring and systemic violations of our clients’ rights to fair trials and fair treatment. The Division engages in a wide variety of criminal and civil litigation in local and federal courts. Currently the Division is focused on several issues, including adult sentences imposed on people who committed crimes when they were adolescents, unconstitutional conditions imposed on pretrial detainees and prisoners, police misconduct, and government failures to disclose exculpatory evidence. The Division has also litigated cases pertaining to the government’s use of flawed forensic science, unconstitutional conditions imposed on parolees, the shackling of children in Superior Court, and the District of Columbia’s civil forfeiture statute.
Position Description:
SLD attorneys litigate criminal and civil cases in local and federal courts, conduct trainings, work on legislative reform, and act as consultants to attorneys in the other divisions of PDS. The attorney’s duties will include drafting substantive trial, post-conviction, and appellate pleadings and presenting oral arguments; working with trial lawyers in on-going criminal litigation; engaging in extensive legal research; factual investigation and development; working with scientific experts and other consultants; conducting evidentiary hearings; and presenting training sessions for PDS and Criminal Justice Act attorneys. SLD attorneys must have excellent research and writing skills, be creative and persuasive oral and written advocates, and enjoy working collaboratively and with active supervision.
Required Qualifications:
J.D. or equivalent degree from an accredited law school by May 2022; 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). For law graduates, bar membership or eligibility to practice in D.C. should be specifically addressed in the cover letter. If the position is filled by a third-year law student, they will be expected to sit for the July 2022 bar exam in either D.C. or other UBE jurisdiction. Staff Attorneys are required to make a three-year commitment to the agency and the division.
Preferred Qualifications:
Two years of relevant experience is preferred but not required. Preferred qualifications include a demonstrated ability to conduct complex research and writing projects, experience in factual development and working with expert witnesses and consultants, experience representing indigent clients in criminal and civil cases in federal and state trial and appellate courts.
Application Evaluation:
Applicants will be evaluated based on the quality of their written and oral advocacy, experience and commitment to being a public defender.
How To Apply:
Applicants must submit: (1) a cover letter that explains why you want to work at the Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service; (2) a resume; (3) a list of three references (name, e-mail address, telephone number, and a brief statement of how each reference is able to evaluate your skills); (4) a legal writing sample, preferably a brief or other advocacy piece; and (5) a law school transcript.* All materials must be submitted online as a consolidated PDF through the PDS employment web portal at If you are unable to apply through the portal, would like assistance applying or have questions about the position please contact:

Jennifer Thomas, Director of Legal Recruiting
(202) 480-0385

* An unofficial transcript is acceptable. Applicants who graduated in 2018 or earlier need not submit a transcript.

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