Fellowship Opportunity Announcement
Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) seeks rising third year law students, judicial law clerks and, where appropriate, recent law school graduates to sponsor for post-graduate public interest law fellowships, including but not limited to Equal Justice Works, Soros Justice, Skadden, Liman, and Kirkland & Ellis fellowships.
Founded in 1996, BDS is the only public defender office to serve Brooklyn residents exclusively. Today we are one of the city’s largest legal service providers, providing criminal defense, family defense, and immigration legal services; our staff of 162 attorneys, with the support of 83 social workers, investigators, parent advocates, paralegals, and administrative assistants, represents 45,000 clients every year.
BDS protects the due process and civil legal rights of poor Brooklyn residents. We believe all people—regardless of economic means—deserve respect, individualized care and the fullest extent of legal protections, whether accused of a crime or facing a civil legal obstacle to justice and opportunity. We are an interdisciplinary and increasingly holistic legal services provider, bringing lawyers and social workers together to meet our clients’ varied needs.
Criminal Defense: Candidates for the Criminal Defense Practice should possess qualities that clearly demonstrate they will excel as career public defenders in one of the nation’s premiere criminal defense law firms. Students will have ideally taken trial advocacy, evidence, ethics, criminal law and criminal procedure courses leading up to their J.D. degree. We are particularly interested in students who have participated in clinical programs involving client representation at those law schools which offer such programs. We also seek candidates with a demonstrated commitment to serving the public interest, as expressed by coursework, internships and extra-curricular activities. Prospective attorneys in the Criminal Defense Practice must have an appreciation of, and ability to relate to, the obstacles faced by our indigent clients, both in their Brooklyn neighborhoods and in negotiating the vagaries of New York’s criminal justice system. Candidates whose own background and experience reflect the diversity of Brooklyn’s communities are particularly encouraged to apply.
Family Defense: The Family Defense Practice represents low income parents in child welfare and related family court cases in Brooklyn Family Court. Through motion practice, hearings, and appellate work, attorneys advocate strongly for parents’ due process rights by fighting unwarranted state intervention in their lives. The practice provides comprehensive representation in an interdisciplinary setting to help families obtain the benefits and services they need to keep their families safe and stable, including assistance on housing, immigration, public benefits and domestic violence matters. Attorneys spend most of their days in court and frequently conduct hearings and trials, often on an emergency basis. Staff attorneys are expected to provide high-quality and vigorous representation at all court appearances and throughout the course of a case. The practice also advocates for systemic change in the family court and child welfare systems. Candidates are expected to have excellent written and oral communication skills and to prepared to work in a very high volume, fast passed setting.
Immigration Practice: BDS’s Immigration Practice provides a wide array of services to its clients. An embedded group of immigration attorneys provides criminal defense practice attorneys and their clients with advice regarding the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Immigration attorneys intervene in the criminal case early on to avoid or minimize the immigration consequences of contact with the criminal justice system. In addition, BDS immigration attorneys routinely take on cases for direct representation. We help BDS clients apply for citizenship, green cards, visas for domestic violence or trafficking victims, and other immigration benefits. Finally, we have a robust removal defense practice; we secure our immigrant clients’ release from immigration detention and defend against deportation. Since November 2013 BDS has been serving as assigned counsel under the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project—a first-in-nation program that provides legal representation for indigent New Yorkers in detained removal proceedings. Candidates must possess a demonstrated ability to perform nuanced legal research and writing at the highest standard, to communicate clearly and effectively through writing, to be a team player, and to have the strong organizational skills required to represent numerous clients. Clinical or professional background in criminal and/or immigration law is preferred.
Civil Justice Unit: The civil justice unit aims to reduce the civil collateral consequences for low-income clients who have had interaction with the criminal, family or immigration justice systems Through legal advocacy in court and at various agencies, we assist people in remaining in their homes, maintaining their public benefits, staying in school, keeping their jobs, and protecting their consumer rights. In order to achieve these ends we practice in almost all of New York City’s courts at every level from trial to appellate courts. We also assist criminal defense attorneys and their clients by identifying potential civil ramifications of guilty pleas and strategizing ways to minimize the risk of eviction, loss of employment and educational consequences as a result of a criminal conviction. The ideal applicant must be able to creatively problem solve, clearly communicate both orally and in writing, thrive in fast-paced, adversarial venues and wish to serve clients who have been arrested, are at risk of losing their children or are facing deportation. Candidates with diverse professional and life experiences are encouraged to apply.
Special Litigation Unit: BDS’s Special Litigation Counsel works with BDS defenders and clients, outside counsel and activists, to identify systemic criminal justice deficiencies and constitutional violations that unjustly affect criminal justice outcomes for our clients. Once identified, special litigation lawyers strategically litigate those issues in State and Federal courts to improve both process and outcomes for all accused New Yorkers. From challenging unreasonable bail conditions when a case starts to overbroad barriers to re-entry when it’s over, BDS is striving to make the criminal justice system accountable to those it intends to serve through its growing impact litigation practice. Ideal candidates for the Special Litigation Unit would have a proven track record of high quality research and writing. Candidates should be interested in an innovative approach to complex legal issues at the intersection of criminal and constitutional law. Candidates should come with an interest in creative approach to law reform.
We are interested in sponsoring candidates with proposals that support BDS’s mission and extend our work in innovative ways. We are open to discussing any strong proposal, but are particularly interested in sponsoring fellows to (i) work within our Immigration Unit at the intersection of immigration and criminal law or the intersection of immigration and family law; (ii) grow our civil justice in the defense against other civil consequences of criminal accusations, such as in the areas of housing and property forfeiture; (iii) work within our Brooklyn Family Defense Practice; or (iv) join our special litigation unit to address systemic violations and deficiencies in the criminal justice system.
To apply, please submit a cover letter including project ideas and a statement of interest, resume, writing sample, and at least two references. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until August 1, 2014 and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BDS has many relationships with local educational institutions, including clinical study programs from New York University Law School (the Offender Re-Entry Clinic, the Family Defense Clinic and the Community Defender Clinic), the Youth Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law School, the Criminal Defense Clinic of St. John’s School of Law and the CUNY Law School Family Law Concentration Clinic.
Brooklyn Defender Services also offers full-time summer internships to law students who have completed their second year of law school and have a commitment to public defense. The internship program is a ten week program. Intern duties may include legal research and writing, representation of clients in arraignments (under supervision), court appearances, client and witness interviews, trial preparation and investigation assistance.
The program is extremely competitive and positions are limited. To apply for a criminal position, please send a cover letter and a resume to Jillian Modzeleski at email@example.com. If you are interested in a family internship contact Megan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in an immigration internship contact Nyasa Hickey at email@example.com. We will accept applications until December 31, 2014. Selected applicants will be interviewed and decisions made by March 2015.
All internships are volunteer positions. However, BDS will work with students to secure funding from outside sources or class credits where available.
Each year, BDS applies for fellowships for attorneys to work in our office on special projects. This year, we have an 18-month Cardozo Law School Fellow working on the immigration defender project and other short-term fellows working in the family defense practice. If you are interested in a fellowship opportunity speak to Marie Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.