Trial Attorney

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Job location
633 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
United States
Organization information
Organization name: 
The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
Street address: 
633 Indiana Avenue, NW
District of Columbia
Job type: 
Legal - Defender
Position Description: 

Opening Date: August 30, 2017 Closing Date: September 27, 2017

Location: Public Defender Service
633 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Promotion Potential: If this position is filled at a lower grade, incumbent will have promotion potential to PDS-14 (GS-14 equivalent).
Organization 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 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, and all employees are entitled to participate in the federal health and life insurance plans, the federal retirement plans (FERS, FERS-RAE, 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 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 Superior Court (Superior Court). 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. 
Major 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.
Qualifications: J.D. or equivalent degree from an accredited law school no later than June 2018; membership in the District of Columbia Bar or eligibility for reciprocity admission to the DC Bar; and excellent research, writing, and oral persuasion skills. Applicants must be prepared to make a minimum three-year commitment to PDS. Third-year law student applicants are required to take the first available District of Columbia bar exam.


Application Instructions: Applicants must submit: (1) a resume that includes a list of three references (name, e-mail address, telephone number, and a brief statement of how each reference is able to evaluate the applicant’s skills); (2) a cover letter; (3) an official law school transcript (for applicants who graduated in 2011 or later); (4) two essays - see below for essay topics. 

With the exception of law school transcripts, all materials must be submitted as a consolidated pdf through the link below.
Please mail official transcript to: 
Jennifer Thomas, Director of Legal Recruiting 
Attention: Trial Attorney PDS-2017-13
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
633 Indiana Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20004
If unable to use the online application system, contact Jennifer Thomas at (202) 824-2337/[email protected] or Cynthia Lester (202) 824-2384/[email protected].
Topic 1
“Why do you want to be a public defender?” (with discussion of background and/or any personal experience significantly contributing to desire to do this work; no more than three typewritten pages, double-spaced).
Topic 2
You represent nineteen-year-old Eli Pope, who is charged with carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of ammunition without a valid registration certificate, and possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device. Mr. Pope is a native of Basinview, a predominantly African-American housing project in one of D.C.’s most economically depressed areas. He moved to Maryland with his mother and younger brother midway through his sophomore year in high school. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Pope was attending the University of the District of Columbia.
Mr. Pope was arrested on January 25, 2017 by Officer Friendly, a ten-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department and a member of the Firearm Reduction and Murder Elimination Task Force (“Task Force”). The Task Force is a specialized investigative unit operating within Washington, D.C.’s Eighth Police District, which is home to Basinview, as well as the up-and-coming “Potomocostia” neighborhood with its soon-to-be-completed Washington “Americans” pro-bocceball arena. Unlike some units that respond to calls for service, the Task Force conducts proactive, gun interdiction patrols in certain areas of the Eighth District.
In his affidavit for Mr. Pope’s arrest and at the preliminary hearing, Officer Friendly has testified that at around midnight on January 25, he was riding with three other officers from the Task Force in an unmarked vehicle, when they came upon group of seven or eight young, black men, including Mr. Pope, at the corner of 15th and West Capitol Streets, SW, near Basinview. Friendly and the other officers got out of the vehicle, identified themselves, and asked the young men if they were willing to answer some questions and to be patted down for officer safety. Mr. Pope consented initially but fled once the pat-down began. Friendly and his partner, Sgt. McGruff, chased Mr. Pope through an alley where Mr. Pope produced a semiautomatic pistol from his waistband and dropped it into a dumpster with his right hand, all without breaking stride. Mr. Pope tripped over his own feet shortly after, allowing Sgt. McGruff to bring him into custody.
You have spoken to Mr. Pope who strongly disputes Officer Friendly’s version of events. He says that no officer asked his permission to speak or conduct a patdown; they jumped out of their car and started pushing people up against the wall and frisking them. Several people ran, Mr. Pope included. An officer wearing a navy blue sweatshirt slammed him to the ground. He cannot identify the officer because everything happened so quickly and all four officers were wearing the same navy blue sweatshirts with yellow writing. Mr. Pope insists that he was not carrying a gun and does not know whether anyone else was. Mr. Pope, who by all accounts is left-handed, has refused the government’s offers to plead guilty to carrying a pistol without a license in exchange for dropping the remaining charges.
On the eve of trial, as you are taking a break from preparing your case to peruse the internet, you see that a story about Officer Friendly is beginning to trend and gather comments on your various social media feeds. A local civil rights group has called on MPD to terminate Friendly following his appearance, with three other officers, at a meeting of the Potomocostia Neighborhood Association. Footage and images from the meeting depict Friendly wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, the front of which depicts an MPD badge and reads, in yellow letters: “FIREARM REDUCTION AND MURDER ELIMINATION TASK FORCE – GET DOWN OR LAY DOWN.” The back of the sweatshirt depicts the Grim Reaper, outlined in yellow, holding an assault rifle in its right hand. In the reaper’s left hand, extended toward the viewer, is a piece of paper that says:
“Basinview Bill of Rights—
You have the right to:
1. Shut up and
2. Show me your waistband.
Know yo rights, homeboy!”

The same footage shows three other officers in attendance, wearing the same sweatshirt, although their backs were to the camera at all times. At a certain point during the meeting, an attendee thanked Friendly and the other officers for their work containing the “violent element” that lived nearby and was threatening everyone’s safety, to which the officers responded “you’re welcome.”

An online petition calls for MPD to terminate Officer Friendly and identify the other officers in attendance at the meeting. MPD has issued a statement calling the sweatshirts antithetical to MPD’s Mission and Value Statement: to “protect its residents and visitors with the highest regard for the sanctity of human life” and to accomplish that mission “with a focus on…integrity and fairness[.]”

The next morning—mere hours before you are scheduled to deliver your opening statement—you receive an email from the prosecutor disclosing “out of an abundance of caution” that MPD is investigating to determine who designed the sweatshirts and whether anyone in the Task Force has ever worn it while on duty, as such conduct may have violated the General Orders prohibiting police from using violent or offensive language and symbols.

Still, the prosecutor states in her email, she intends to preclude you from introducing any evidence regarding the sweatshirts or asking any witness about them because those circumstances do not show that the arresting officers were biased against Mr. Pope or lying about why they arrested him. The prosecutor notes that Officer Friendly was not on duty when he attended the meeting. She further argues that Sgt. McGruff fully corroborates Officer Friendly’s account and that there is no proof that McGruff even attended the meeting or wore a sweatshirt. As a courtesy, the prosecutor has attached a copy of the motion in limine she intends to file, which raises the same arguments outlined in her email.

Equal Opportunity Employer
Salary range: 
Entry level salary after admission to the bar is $70,000
Submission deadline: 
Wednesday, September 27, 2017