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Associate Public Defender

FLSA Exempt
Date 09/01/2021
Location(s) variable in one of 6 office locations
Number of positions 1
Salary $80,000/year
Reports To Chief Public Defender

Summary

Appointed by the Chief Public Defender, the Associate Public Defender will be tasked with developing all the necessary skills that embody and are required for a capital trial lawyer. Prior to entering a courtroom, the Associate Public Defender will be required to spend a substantial amount of time (up to 2 years) learning and developing mitigation in a capital case. The Associate Public Defender will be assigned to 1 of 6 trial offices for the mitigation portion of their career with the R.P.D.O.  The Associate Public Defender’s personal choice will be considered, but ultimately the placement will be made by the R.P.D.O. based upon the needs of the organization.  Applicants must be willing to accept assignment to any R.P.D.O. trial office. 

IF the Associate Public Defender does excellent work as a mitigation specialist in the view of administration in consultation with the trial office, they will be transferred to the Lubbock, Texas trial office and begin legal work representing indigent defendants.  The Associate Public Defender will work through a cooperative relationship with the Lubbock Private Defenders Office to receive criminal appointments appropriate to their skill level and development.  At all times, the Associate Public Defender remains an employee of the R.P.D.O. and is subject to the instructions of R.P.D.O. leadership as well as R.P.D.O. policies.  The expectation for the Associate Public Defender is that they will handle progressively more serious cases as their career develops until they are competent to handle 1st degree felony cases including homicide cases.  If successful, the Associate Public Defender would be considered for promotion to Assistant Public Defender and begin work on capital cases.  There is no set timeline for the Associate Public Defender’s progression.  It should generally be expected to be a 4–6-year process once they complete the mitigation portion of their work, but this is dependent on the development of the attorney.  No Associate Public Defender is guaranteed to advance at any stage of the process.  No location for placement as an Assistant Public Defender is guaranteed and will be determined based upon the needs of the organization.

It is expected that the Associate Public Defender will sit for and pass the first available Texas Bar Examination.  Employment will begin with the R.P.D.O. at a mutually agreeable date after the bar examination.  The Associate Public Defender may begin work prior to receiving bar examination results (typically in November and May each year).  If the Associate Public Defender does not pass the bar examination, they may be continued in employment at the discretion of the Chief Public Defender pending a second attempt of the bar examination.  A second unsuccessful bar examination may result in termination of employment.  

The successful Associate Public Defender will master mitigation development and develop their legal skills as a trial lawyer. The Associate Public Defender will be responsible for providing legal representation for defendants in criminal proceedings and ensuring their constitutional rights are upheld.  Serves as lead counsel in some non-death cases and performs functions as directed in selected capital cases.  Oversees and participates in preparation, presentation, and disposition of cases. Will work diligently developing legal skills to facilitate the eventual first chair representation of capital defendants.

Essential Duties

  1. Embrace the Mission, Vision and Values of the R.P.D.O.
  2. Successfully work in and embrace the team concept that is demanded in R.P.D.O. work.
  3. Commit to self-study and research on relevant subject matter for mitigation, including but not limited to intellectual disability, mental illness, and trauma.  Attend appropriate training as provided through the Gideon’s Promise program or as directed by R.P.D.O. administration.
  4. Obtains and evaluates family histories, jail records, work records, medical records, and educational records.
  5. Prepares correspondence, social histories, and reports and submits social histories to psychologists, and team members.
  6. Conducts witness interviews and field investigations regarding competency, alcohol/drug dependence, legal sanity and prepares reliable social histories and themes regarding mitigation based on the client's psycho-social development, future dangerousness, and other capital sentencing factors.
  7. Prepares written reports/memoranda for all clients and submits to attorneys and team members.
  8. Provides legal advice to clients.  Interviews clients and witnesses to obtain information necessary for preparing a defense.
  9. Participates in plea negotiation with prosecutors regarding the pending case.  Advises clients on plea offers, options, and potential for success at trial or other dispositions of cases.
  10. Seeks from the Court any necessary funding for outside experts in the preparation of a defense.
  11. Performs legal research.  Searches resources and studies legal records and documents to obtain information applicable to case issues under consideration.
  12. Obtains documents by subpoena and other discovery methods.
  13. Drafts briefs, motions, orders, subpoenas, and other legal documents, as well as correspondence and reports.
  14. Identifies any affirmative or de facto defenses and tactical procedural choices for clients.
  15. Prepares cases for court and conducts hearings and trials related to pending cases.
  16. Provides narrative, descriptive entries in client files of opinions, impressions, and facts collected.
  17. Preserves any potential error for appellate points.
  18. Advises clients of the constitutional rights waived by pleading guilty and the potential direct and collateral consequences of a guilty plea.  Advises non-citizen clients of the specific immigration consequences of criminal convictions.
  19. Selects juries, examines, and cross-examines witnesses, drafts and argues jury instructions and argues cases to the jury.
  20. Staffs other cases assigned to the office with other attorneys and staff.
  21. Responds to telephone calls from non-clients, family members of clients.
  22. Travel as required by the job, which may include significant overnight travel.

Qualification Requirements

J.D./LL.B. from an accredited law school.  Desire to represent indigent defendants is a necessity. Significant capital mitigation experience is a plus. 

Additional Requirements

  • The candidate must take and pass the Texas Bar Examination at the first available opportunity; or
  • be licensed to practice law in Texas; or
  • the ability to obtain a Texas license within 6 months of starting date;
  • exhibit commitment to providing quality representation to indigent defendants and developing the skills and experience necessary to represent capital defendants as a first chair attorney.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Knowledge and understanding of the relevant state law, both procedural and substantive, governing criminal cases. Ability to handle stressful cases; ability to adjust to rapidly fluctuating situations; ability to operate a personal computer and basic office equipment; ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with co-workers.

Ability to keep accurate notes and records; ability to prepare and present clear, concise and comprehensive reports; ability to read and understand legal codes, cases and technical material in such disciplines as medicine, physical and social sciences; ability to obtain information through interview and interrogation; ability to assess the credibility of witnesses; ability to gather and analyze facts and evidence and draw valid conclusions; ability to adjust to workload changes and work under stress to meet deadlines; ability to organize and prioritize workload to manage cases efficiently; ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with team members, representatives of other agencies, clients, family member of clients, the public and co-workers.

PHYSICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL REQUIREMENTS: Physical requirements include lifting/carrying 25 lbs. occasionally; visual acuity, speech, and hearing; hand and eye coordination and manual dexterity necessary to operate computer keyboard and basic office equipment.  Subject to sitting, standing, walking, reaching, and handling to perform the essential functions.

Regional Public Defenders for Capital Cases

PO Box 2097
Lubbock, Texas 79408

Tel. 806-696-3740
Fax. 806-696-3750

Email. rpdo@rpdo.org

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