Colorado State Public Defender System Overview
bikeflip wrote: ↑
Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:57 pm
I know the answer to this, Borhas, but others will wanna know.
Borhas wrote: ↑
Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:33 pm
By the way, if anyone has questions about the Colorado State Public Defender's Office let me know (hiring, interview), PM's are fine if you want to be real specific. I was a PD for about 4 years, worked on every type of case including murder-1 before burning out.
How does hiring work in Colorado? Is it statewide hiring? Is there a chance you will be sent to an area you might not wanna work in? What does the first year of training look like? What kind of cases did you do? Did you do municipal cases?
The Colorado State PD is a centralized state PD system. It is managed by the central administrative office in Denver, the regional trial offices represent individual clients. The Public Defender and his chief deputies and specialist attorneys work at the state admin office. There are trial offices throughout the state, to include the green dots on the map. Each trial office has an office head, investigators, administrative staff, sometimes a social workers, and obviously attorneys. It is a "vertical representation system" which basically means you get to keep the client from first appearance through trial, and appeal (if misdemeanor... the appellate division does the work for felony appeals.)
New permanent hires are placed a trial office and given a misdemeanor caseload where there is an opening, and must remain at that specific office for two years, they can request a transfer (which usually happens within a few months) to a metro Denver office after that. Hint: there will be more opening at the bigger offices, and also the offices with the highest turn over.
In my experience the most likely places for placement are: Colorado Springs/El Paso County and Arapahoe County because those are big offices with shitty DA's that also increase turn over. Not surprisingly, there are not as many spots to be had at say... Boulder or Denver proper.
The size and culture of individual offices vary widely. For example compare the 13th Judicial District PD is located in Sterling Colorado to the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, the 13th PD covers 7 counties with about 6 attorneys (maybe fewer). In CO all felonies are tried in the district court, and misdemeanors in county court. The 4th PD office covers only El Paso County and Telller County but has almost 60 attorneys and 40 admin, investigators, and a social worker.
The PD experience in Sterling will be a relatively light docket load with a lot of travel. The office culture is a lot of more 9-5ish and not sort of happy hour going place since it is in the middle of nowhere. The DA offices there are usually not particularly competent or aggressive.
The PD experience in Colorado Springs will include a heavy caseload and many trials immediately. As a new attorney you will be spending nights and weekends at the office on a consistent basis. The office is a lot more tight nit because the CO Springs office gets about 10 new attorneys every year and they usually start around the same time. These folks usually become friends with each other, and their mentors who are just the attorneys that started a year before them. Worst DA office in the state is the 4th Judicial DA, close runner up is 1st Judicial District.
The CO PD represents all juveniles charged with crimes (unless they get private counsel) and all indigent adults charged with misdemeanors or higher charges in county and district courts throughout the state. The PD does not represent people at administrative hearings (like DMV/DUI driver license revocation hearings), or collateral civil matters (like protection orders) or anything in municipal court.
So there is hiring for newly minted trial lawyers but I've also seen them hire new lawyers for the appellate division. It is generally agreed that Appellate is pretty chill but boring. If you want to do appeals you may have to apply specifically for that, but I've also seen people transfer to appellate division from a trial office. Occasionally, the office will hire lateral attorneys from a variety of backgrounds (except law enforcement). I mostly know stuff about hiring process for new trial lawyers.
There are two things you need to have a good shot at getting hired (as a typical new trial lawyer):
1) Demonstrated interest in serving indigent clientele that PD serves
2) In court litigation experience, one or more jury trials would be preferrable
Other very helpful things:
3) prior 2L internship at CO PD
4) clinic, trial advocacy, moot court
5) Spanish speaking skills
things that dont really matter at all
law review + grades
I am not sure as far as the timeline of when applications have to be submitted, but generally there are 2 rounds of interviews. The first round is usually why PD? + some sort of hypo, the second round is with the State PD or a chief deputy. If you get to second round you will probably be hired. Once you are "hired" you are placed on the list and people will be drawn from the list and placed at offices as offices have openings. I have no idea how they decide who goes where. Your preferences are mostly irrelevant and best kept to yourself.
Training and First Year
You get a misdemeanor caseload, for a couple weeks at least there will be another slightly more experienced PD who will be your partner in docket. You will be expected to competently represent clients from day one, but usually your supervisor will sit in on your first client advisements or jail visits so they can make sure you don't immediately fuck things up. If you go to trial you'll have a second chair to help you out. There are regular training by the state office and your local supervisors. There is an incredibly tough learning curve if you are placed in a high pressure jurisdictions as there is just an enormous amount of stuff to know just to be half way competent. If you do ok your first year they will schedule you for bootcamp, which is a week long ultra intensive course on how to work up and try a felony case that has been approved as boot camp appropriate (interesting issues, likely to go to trial etc). If you pass boot camp (and many don't) you'll get clearance to get a felony docket, and you'll go handle district court cases when your office has an opening in district court.
I did misdemeanors only for about a year, then I helped people on some felonies but still had a misdo caseload until about 1.5 years in. At 1.5 years I started representing district court clients ranging from drug possession to aggravated assault and attempted murder. Then at about 2.5 years I also started doing juvie cases ranging from shoplifting to attempted murder. My last year I did juvenile defense and crimes against juveniles (sex assault on child type cases). Murder cases go to four person teams: 1st chair, 2nd chair, investigator, admin. I was a second chair on one which ultimately plead out a month before trial.
Starting salary for newly licensed attorney: $57.2k
Annual pay raise: 1-2% (maybe more if state government gives everyone raises)
Training completion raise: 5% at end of year 2
I started at around 54k and left at 65k after about 4 years. In another year or two I would have probably been promoted to senior pd, which would have put me around 75k/year. There isn't much promotion potential above senior PD. There is Lead PD for the people that regularly first chair homicides and are all around bad asses, but after that only raises come from the small annual raise or if you happen to become a supervisor or office head. How fast you are promoted really depends on the needs of your office not your competence necessarily. Someone working at Sterling will get promoted to senior before someone working at a metro denver office because there are just not many experienced people that want to live long term in Sterling, CO.
Benefits: standard government benefits, also a Colorado's pension system is pretty generous if not sustainable