Job Opportunities

Trial Attorney - PDS-2021-06

Vacancy Announcement:
Pay Series:
PDS 11/12/13 (GS-11/12/13 Equivalent)
Opening Date:
Feb 16, 2021
Closing Date:
Mar 10, 2021
Public Defender Service
  for the District of Columbia
633 Indiana Avenue, NW
2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20004
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 criminal, delinquency, and mental health matters in the District of Columbia. 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, 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, 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.

Division Background:

Attorneys in the Trial Division zealously represent adults in criminal proceedings and children in delinquency matters in the District of Columbia. Attorneys are assigned to specific types 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. 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.
Essential Duties:
Trial Division attorneys are responsible for providing outstanding oral and written advocacy in their individual cases and for working effectively with investigators, forensic social workers, and other specialists as needed to achieve each client’s desired outcome. Trial Division attorneys are also expected to be available to their colleagues to assist and to work collaboratively to produce the best outcome for PDS Trial Division clients.
Required Qualifications:
J.D. or equivalent degree from an accredited law school by June 2021; 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. Applicants are required to make a three year commitment to the agency.
How To Apply:
Applicants must submit: (1) a cover letter; (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) an unofficial law school transcript*; (5) a response to the question “Why do you want to be a public defender?” (Include a discussion of your background and/or any personal experience significantly contributing to your desire to do this work, no more than two typewritten pages, single- or double-spaced), and (6) a motion based on the fact pattern below, no more than 1800 words). All materials must be submitted online as a single consolidated PDF through "Apply To This Job."

Essay 2:
Around 8 am on February 14, 2020 Mr. William Wills called 911, saying that he had walked into his apartment to find a person wearing a clown suit and makeup stabbed to death in the living room of his apartment. Police responded to the scene and interviewed Mr. Wills. Mr. Wills said that the day before, he had received a text asking him to travel to New Jersey to visit a friend, but when he got there, no one answered the door so he turned around and went home – where he discovered the dead clown and immediately called the police. As they were talking in Mr. Wills’s apartment, a neighbor came to the door and asked to talk to a police officer. Out in the hall, the neighbor explained that she had heard maniacal laughter and music coming from the apartment until around midnight the night before, then Mr. Wills’s voice yelling and a loud thud. She did not think much of it because Mr. Wills was a generally weird person, but after she heard about the dead clown, she began to think it might have been related. The officer went back into the apartment, and this time he noticed smears of white face paint on the back of Mr. Wills’s hand. Glancing down at the couch upon which Mr. Wills was sitting, the officer saw the handle of a knife, also covered in white paint, protruding from behind a cushion. Mr. Wills saw where the officer was looking and blurted out “It was self-defense!”

Mr. Wills was placed under arrest for the murder of the clown. Several items from his apartment were seized, including an iPad and a cell phone. Back at the station, the officer logging the evidence noticed the iPad screen was illuminated and unlocked. He clicked on an icon marked “Photos” and found another folder labeled “Clowns,” which contained thousands of pictures of clowns, some dead and some living. The detective assigned to the case applied for a search warrant for the cell phone. In the affidavit for the search warrant application, after a description of the 911 call and crime scene, the detective wrote the following in a section titled “Probable Cause”:

1. The assigned homicide detective spoke to Mr. Wills (the occupant of the apartment and 911 caller) upon arrival at the scene. Mr. Wills described returning home after an overnight trip to find the body on the floor of his living room. Mr. Wills stated that he had been out of town the previous night because he had gotten a text from a friend asking him to come up to New Jersey to hang out, but that when he had arrived at the address in New Jersey no one was there, so he had returned home.

2. Mr. Wills was found to be in possession of a cellular telephone, “iPhone 7,” silver in color with a glass face and a white plastic case. This phone was taken into evidence and is currently at the Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Branch.

3. It is your affiant’s belief that there is probable cause that evidence related to this homicide may be contained in this cellular telephone device. It is also your affiant’s belief that obtaining the information requested is the least intrusive method of establishing who possessed or used the device, subscriber information, cell phone device phone number, incoming and outgoing calls and texts, as well as the whereabouts of the cell phone device on the night of the murder.

On the basis of this affidavit a judge signed a warrant for the search of the cell phone, authorizing:
1. All records on the Device described that relate to the subject homicide, including:
a. Any evidence relating to the aforementioned homicide
b. Any identifying information of the owner, the owner’s friends or acquaintances
c. Any information relating to the owner’s schedule or travel on the day of the homicide or the day preceding the homicide
d. Record of Internet activity, including browser history and cookies, “bookmarked” or “favorite” web pages, or search terms that the user typed into any Internet search engines.

The detective then searched the iPhone and found in the phone’s search history inquiries including “why are clowns so awful,” “how to kill a clown,” “will a clown stay dead if I kill it,” and “boring but believable alibis – New Jersey??” The detective did not find any text messages from the three days up to and including the homicide, and the phone’s GPS records revealed it had been in the District during that same time period.

Please write a motion to suppress the evidence recovered from both the iPad and the iPhone. Your motion should not include a separate fact section (though you may discuss the facts as they relate to the law). Your motion should not exceed 1,800 words.

Expected Timeline:
 PDS anticipates conducting interviews in April for a trial class that is scheduled to start on November 8, 2021.

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