Meet our 2024-2026 Non-Capital Fellowship host offices!
Defender Services Program
The Defender Services Program, established pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), 18 U.S.C. § 3006A, upholds the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel in the federal courts by providing representation for persons unable to afford counsel in federal criminal proceedings.
The Defender Services Program provides high-quality representation consistent with the best practices of the legal profession through a hybrid system of 82 federal defender organizations (FDOs) and more than 10,000 private panel attorneys. Together, federal defenders and CJA panel attorneys represent the vast majority of persons prosecuted for federal criminal offenses. There are two types of FDOs: (1) federal public defender organizations (FPDOs), which consist of federal employees who are part of the judiciary, and (2) community defender organizations (CDOs), which are private, state-chartered, non-profit corporations funded by annual federal grants from the judiciary.
Respected as the “gold standard” in public defense, the Defender Services Program provides representation for the full range of federal criminal offenses. The program’s reputation is exemplified by a federal judge’s observation that “[F]ederal public defenders... typically provide the highest quality representation... significantly higher than that provided by privately retained counsel... and even prosecutors.” United States v. Brown, 785 F.3d 1337,1348 n.5 (9th Cir. 2015).
Defender Services Office (DSO)
The mission of the Defender Services Office (DSO), located within the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, is to uphold the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), 18 U.S.C. § 3006A, and other congressional mandates. DSO supports counsel appointed to represent individuals who are unable to afford a lawyer or pay for other critical defense services. Counsel appointed under the CJA are from either a panel of private attorneys designated by the court, or a FDO. DSO consists of a dedicated staff of nearly 70 full-time employees and is organized into four divisions and an administrative operations staff. Elizabeth Brown Luck is the DSO Chief and Pamela Hamrin serves as Deputy Chief.
Fellowship program information
Recognizing the critical importance of diversity to a legal services program whose clients are primarily people of color, the Defender Services Program has long sought to increase the participation of attorneys from groups traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession.
Supported by the federal judiciary’s emphasis on workforce diversity to engender public trust and improve performance, the goal of this Fellowship Program is to enhance the quality of representation provided for persons unable to afford counsel in federal criminal proceedings by increasing the number of diverse attorneys capable of providing such representation. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, and socioeconomic status. Diversity among CJA counsel supports the cultural competency necessary to meet the needs of a diverse clientele and can lead to better case outcomes by fostering greater trust on the part of CJA clients.
The Fellowship Program will achieve this goal by creating a pipeline of diverse attorneys qualified to join FDOs and CJA panels.
Non-Capital and Capital Fellowship Components
Non-Capital Fellowship Program - Designed for graduating law students and attorneys early in their careers, the non-capital program will place 12 fellows in different FDO host offices around the country for two-year terms during which fellows will gain federal criminal defense training and experience in providing representation in non-capital CJA cases. Each class will have opportunities for joint training, mentorship, and other group activities. Non-capital fellows are employees of federal defender organizations, which are either community defender organizations (CDOs) or federal public defender organizations (FPDOs), and will receive a salary and benefits package comparable to other post-graduate, public interest legal training programs. The salary range for non-capital fellows will be the Judiciary Salary Plan (JSP) Grade 11 – 13, depending on experience, which is comparable to the federal General Schedule (GS) pay scale. The salary will also reflect locality adjustments.
The application period for the 2024-2026 fellowship period is now open, and will close on December 11, 2023.
Capital Fellowship Program - Designed to diversify and expand the pool of attorneys qualified to provide federal capital trial representation, the capital program will place two fellows—attorneys with three to five years of criminal practice experience—in FDO host offices for a two-year term during which they will receive intensive training in federal capital trial practice. Capital fellows are employees of federal defender organizations, which are either community defender organizations (CDOs) or federal public defender organizations (FPDOs), and will receive a salary and benefits package comparable to other post-graduate, public interest legal training programs. The salary range for non-capital fellows will be the Judiciary Salary Plan (JSP) 12 – 14, depending on experience, which is comparable to the federal General Schedule (GS) pay scale. The salary will also reflect locality adjustments.
The application period for the 2024-2026 Capital Fellowship Program will open in spring 2024.
Meet our 2022-2024 Non-Capital Fellows!
Meet our 2022-2024 Capital Fellows!
We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.
~Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.~Justice Thurgood MarshallFirst African American appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States of America
I’m a United States district judge. That would not have been possible even fifty years ago. But it is possible today, and I remember that progress every day that I preside over this court – and I remember how far we still have to go.~Hon. Constance Baker MotleyFirst African American woman to serve as a federal judge