The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) is a federally funded, independent legal organization governed by an eleven-member Board of Trustees. The organization was created by a federal statute enacted to comply with a constitutional mandate to provide defense counsel to poor people in criminal and juvenile proceedings. In the District of Columbia, PDS is authorized to provide representation for up to sixty percent of people who are annually determined to be financially unable to obtain adequate representation. Those not represented by PDS are represented by private attorneys compensated by the Criminal Justice Act (CJA). PDS generally handles the more serious, more complex, resource-intensive, and time-consuming criminal cases and juvenile delinquency cases. PDS attorneys also handle criminal appeals, almost all parole revocation hearings, and most Superior Court Drug Intervention Program (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 whose issues were triggered by their criminal charges or their incarceration. In addition, PDS provides technical assistance to the local criminal justice system, offers training for PDS staff and other defense attorneys and investigators who represent those who cannot afford counsel, and develops innovative approaches to representation. PDS routinely provides representation in the D.C. Superior Court (Superior Court) and the D.C. Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals) and, at times, represents clients in the United States District Court for D.C. (U.S. District Court), the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (U.S. Court of Appeals), and the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court).
Our Legal Services Divisions
PDS and private attorneys, both appointed by the District of Columbia courts pursuant to CJA, provide constitutionally mandated legal representation to indigent people facing a loss of liberty in the District of Columbia. PDS handles a majority of the most difficult, complicated criminal cases, while private (CJA) attorneys handle the majority of the less serious felony, misdemeanor, and regulatory offenses. PDS is a model program applying a holistic approach to representation and uses both general litigation skills and specialty practices to provide complete, quality representation in its complex cases.
Our Legal Support Services Divisions
Legal Support Services is composed of various professionals within PDS who work closely with attorneys on individual cases: the Investigations Division; the Office of Rehabilitation and Development (ORD); the Defender Services Office (DSO); and the paralegal, language, and library services staff. Investigators ensure that each case is carefully investigated prior to a decision to accept a plea offer or proceed to trial. Forensic social workers in ORD provide presentencing assistance to address mitigation issues and to provide program alternatives for appropriate clients. DSO coordinates the appointment of lawyers to eligible clients. Other legal support services staff include a multilingual language specialist who facilitates communication with non-English speaking clients, a librarian who manages PDS's specialized collection of legal resources and electronic access to research, and two paralegals who work on cases and projects.
Other PDS Programs in Support of the D.C. Court System
||Pub. L. No. 91-358, Title III, § 301 (1970); see also D.C. Code § 2-1601, et seq., 2001 ed.
||Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963).
||Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966); and In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967).
||D.C. Code §§ 11-2601 to 2608 (2001).
||74 Stat. 229, P.L. 229 (1960).
||84 Stat. 473, P.L. 91-358 (July 29, 1970).
||Evaluation of Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, Halting the Assembly Line Justice, PDS: A Model of Client-Centered Representation, August 2008, National Legal Aid & Defender Association at i.
||Id. at iii.
||Bob Kemper, Gideon: Right to Counsel, Washington Lawyer, September 2009, at 24.
||Id. at 26.
||Transcript from the Forum at Harvard School of Public Health U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Defending Childhood and Youth: A Public Health Approach to Ending the Cycle of Violence, May 6, 2011 at 10.
||Case No.1519-86 (IFP).