PDS is hiring a November 2021 trial attorney class! Help us spread the word. #publicdefender #lawschools #lawstudents
Champions of Liberty! It is the mission of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) to provide and promote quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty in the District of Columbia, thereby protecting society's interest in the fair administration of justice.
633 Indiana Ave NW
Washington D.C., DC
The office is one block from the Archives/Navy Memorial Metro stop (Green and Yellow Lines).
The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) provides and promotes quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty in the District of Columbia and thereby protects society’s interest in the fair administration of justice. PDS is a federally funded, independent organization, governed by an eleven-member Board of Trustees. The organization began in 1960 as the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), charged with providing legal representation for people unable to afford an attorney in judicial proceedings in the District of Columbia. In 1963, the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright recognized the constitutional right to an attorney for poor people charged with a crime and fueled the commitment for public defender services. Building on that momentum, LAA leadership crafted the 1970 statute that established PDS, broadened the mandate, and secured the apolitical role of the Board of Trustees, which preserved PDS’s autonomy. PDS’s exceptional advocacy and proven success through individualized and continuous client representation, comprehensive training, non-legal resources, effective management and administrative systems, involvement with the private and court-appointed defense system, and law reform resulted in the designation of PDS as an exemplary project and model for other jurisdictions in 1974 by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration of the US Department of Justice. Since then, PDS has maintained the reputation as one of the best public defender offices in the country—local or federal. It has become the national standard-bearer and the benchmark by which other public defender systems often measure themselves. Due largely to effective advocacy by PDS leadership, the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997 (the “Revitalization Act”) and its 1998 Amendments established PDS as a federally funded, independent legal organization governed by an eleven-member Board of Trustees and preserved all programmatic aspects of the model public defender system. In the District, PDS and the DC courts share the responsibility for providing constitutionally mandated legal representation to people who cannot pay for their own attorney. Under the District’s Criminal Justice Act (CJA), the courts generally appoint PDS to the more serious, more complex, resource-intensive, and time-consuming criminal cases and juvenile delinquency cases. The courts assign the remaining cases, mainly the less serious cases and the majority of misdemeanor and traffic cases, to a panel of court-approved private attorneys (“CJA attorneys”). PDS attorneys also handle criminal appeals, almost all parole revocation hearings, most Drug Court sanction hearings, and represent people facing involuntary commitment in the mental health system, children with special education needs facing delinquency charges, and clients in civil proceedings that were triggered by their criminal charges or their incarceration. In addition, PDS offers training for its staff and other defense attorneys and investigators who represent those who cannot afford an attorney, and provides support to the DC Courts. PDS has also developed innovative approaches to representation, from addressing the problems clients encounter when returning to the community following incarceration to creating a one-of-a-kind electronic case tracking system.
|Monday||09:00 - 17:30|
|Tuesday||09:00 - 17:30|
|Wednesday||09:00 - 17:30|
|Thursday||09:00 - 17:30|
|Friday||09:00 - 17:30|
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The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) provides and promotes quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty in the District of Columbia and thereby protects society's interest in the fair administration of justice.
A major portion of the work we do consists of representing individuals in the District of Columbia’s local criminal justice system who are charged with committing serious criminal acts and who are eligible for court-appointed counsel. In the District of Columbia, public defense services are primarily provided by PDS, the “institutional defender,” and by a panel of private attorneys, known as Criminal Justice Act (CJA) attorneys, who are screened for membership on the panel and paid on a case-by-case basis by the District of Columbia courts. Because of its resources, well-regarded training program, and overall skill level, PDS generally handles the more serious criminal cases, and the CJA attorneys generally handle the less serious criminal cases.
PDS attorneys represent indigent clients in the majority of the most serious adult felony cases filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court every year, clients pursuing or defending against criminal appeals, nearly all individuals facing parole revocation under the District of Columbia Code, and all defendants in the District of Columbia Superior Court requiring representation at Drug Court sanctions hearings. PDS also provides legal representation to people facing involuntary civil commitment in the mental health system, as well as to many of the indigent children in the most serious delinquency cases, including those who have special education needs due to learning disabilities.
In addition, PDS addresses the legal issues and barriers related to the successful community reentry of our clients. PDS also provides technical assistance to the local criminal justice system, training for CJA and pro bono attorneys, and additional legal services to indigent clients in accordance with PDS’s enabling statute (Pub. L. No. 91-358, Title III, § 301 (1970); see also D.C. Code §§ 2-1601 – 1608 (2001).).