Career Opportunity – New York District



The Capital Resource Counsel Project is seeking an experienced Mitigation Specialist.
The Capital Resource Counsel Project, working in close coordination with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, is a program of the Defender Services Office of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts designed to assist the federal courts, federal defenders, and appointed counsel in connection with matters related to the defense function in federal capital prosecutions. Capital Resource Counsel (CRC) attorneys are national positions in the federal defender program who (1) coordinate and provide expert advice, assistance and training to Federal Defender Organization (FDO) attorneys and appointed counsel regarding the representation of persons charged with federal capital crimes, and (2) represent persons charged in federal capital cases as co-counsel with FDO attorneys or Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel attorneys. Capital Resource Counsel are hosted in federal defender offices in different regions of the country but interact with each other and Resource Counsel daily by phone and email. The Capital Resource Counsel Project seeks an experienced Mitigation Specialist to work closely with Capital Resource Counsel in these efforts.
This Mitigation Specialist will also be expected to train, mentor, consult with, and provide other support to mitigation specialists in federal capital trial level cases. The selected applicant must have extensive experience assisting attorneys in the investigation, development, and presentation of mitigation evidence at trial in capital cases in state or federal court.
The CRCP Mitigation Specialist will be located in a host FDO subject to available hosting support and negotiation with the selected applicant. This position will require work on holidays, evenings, and weekends, as the nature of the work requires. This position also requires extensive travel. Please see the position description that follows this announcement for a detailed description of a related position in the federal defender program, that of “Capital Mitigation Specialist”.
Salary and Benefits: The position is full-time with federal benefits. Salary range will be based on experience and location. Benefits include health and life insurance, retirement, and the Thrift Savings Plan. Salary is payable only by direct deposit.
Application Process: Email a single, bookmarked, pdf-formatted file including a cover letter and resume detailing capital case and training experience, and the names of three references, to Matthew Rubenstein at Women, people of color, and Spanish-speaking individuals are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is Monday, February 12, 2018.
The Federal Defender program is an Equal Opportunity Employer.



The Capital Mitigation Specialist assists attorneys in the investigation, development, and presentation of mitigation evidence at trial and post-conviction in capital cases in federal court either prosecuted under the Federal Death Penalty Act or litigated on habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241, 2244, 2254 or 2255. As provided in the Defender Services Program Strategic Plan, counsel in capital cases in federal
court are expected to comply with Guidelines 1.1 and 10.2 et seq. of the American Bar Association’s
Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases, 31 HOFSTRA L. REV. 913 (2003) and the Supplementary Guidelines for the Mitigation Function of Defense Teams in Death Penalty Cases, 36 HOFSTRA L. REV. 677 (2008). The Strategic Plan seeks to provide services “consistent with the best practices of the legal profession.” See Goal 2 (Quality of Representation), Strategy 16 (Capital Representation). The Capital Mitigation Specialist is an essential member of the capital defense team at all stages of representation, from pre-trial proceedings through clemency. See ABA Guideline 10.4 (The Defense Team), noting that the team should include “at least one mitigation specialist” and “at least one member qualified by training and experience to screen individuals for the presence of mental or psychological disorders or impairments.” 31 HOFSTRA L. REV. at 999-1000.
“Mitigation evidence includes, but is not limited to, compassionate factors stemming from the diverse frailties of humankind, the ability to make a positive adjustment to incarceration, the realities of incarceration and the actual meaning of a life sentence, capacity for redemption, remorse, execution impact, vulnerabilities related to mental health, explanations of patterns of behavior, negation of aggravating evidence regardless of its designation as an aggravating factor, positive acts or qualities, responsible conduct in other areas of life (e.g., employment, education, military service, as a family member), any evidence bearing on the degree of moral culpability, and any other reason for a sentence less than death.” Supplementary Guideline 1.1.A, 36 HOFSTRA L. REV. at 679.


The Capital Mitigation Specialist is bound by the rules of professional responsibility that govern the conduct of counsel respecting work product, privilege, diligence, and loyalty to the client. He or she should attend a specialized capital training program committed to national standards of practice at least once every other year. The Capital Mitigation Specialist performs tasks such as the following:

  1. Assists attorneys in coordinating and integrating a client’s life history evidence with the defense strategy in the guilt or innocence phase;
  2. Conducts an ongoing, exhaustive and independent investigation of every aspect of the client’s character, life history, record, and any circumstances of the offense, or other factors, which may provide a basis for a sentence less than death;
  3. Conducts multiple, in-person interviews in a culturally competent manner, with the client and relevant persons familiar with the client’s life history, or family history or who would support a sentence less than death;
  4. Provides attorneys with documentary evidence of the investigation through the use of genealogies, social history reports, chronologies, and reports on other relevant subjects such as cultural, socioeconomic, environmental, racial, and religious issues in the client’s life;
  5. Assists attorneys in the selection and preparation of witnesses who will testify or consult with the defense team, including both experts and lay witnesses;
  6. Gathers and analyzes documentary records of the client, family members, and other relevant third parties;
  7. Assists attorneys in preparing and gathering demonstrative evidence;
  8. Advises attorneys on appropriate mental experts;
  9. Provides supervision, education, and training to interns, attorneys, investigators, paralegals, and other staff who are assisting on capital cases; and
  10. Performs all other tasks as assigned.


The Capital Mitigation Specialist reports to the attorney responsible for the case or another supervisor as designated by the Defender.


To qualify for the position of Capital Mitigation Specialist, a person must have a college degree and the requisite experience outlined in the Salary and Experience Scale and Experience Requirements sections. A candidate with an advanced or graduate degree in social work is strongly preferred. A candidate with a degree in or related to a field such as anthropology, education, human development, journalism, psychology, sociology, or criminal justice is preferred. To qualify for this position the candidate must have a general understanding of office confidentiality issues, such as attorney-client privilege.
The Capital Mitigation Specialist should have the knowledge and skills to analyze all relevant multigenerational records pertaining to the client and his or her family using all necessary methods for obtaining the release of otherwise confidential information. See Supplementary Guideline 5.1 (Qualifications of the Defense Team), 36 HOFSTRA L. REV. 682-83 for further details.


DOCS Grade LevelYears of Specialized Experience


Progressively responsible experience giving the candidate a working knowledge of the criminal justice and correctional systems, mental health and other social services, and psychology and psychological testing is necessary for this position. Qualifying experience should involve performing the following
types of duties: 1) conducting ongoing, exhaustive and independent investigations of every aspect of the client’s character, life history, record, and any circumstances of the offense, or other factors, which may provide a basis for a sentence less than death, ; 2) identifying, locating and interviewing relevant persons in a culturally competent manner, with the capacity to establish the rapport necessary to recognize and elicit information about mental health signs and symptoms and any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse; 3) interpreting and synthesizing large amounts and different types of information (e.g., mental health, financial, forensic, legal principles and procedures, rules and standards of the court in various litigation stages); 4) integrating mitigation investigations into pre-trial, trial, plea negotiation, post-conviction and clemency proceedings; and 5) maintaining complete and accurate files, including records that may assist successor counsel. The candidate should have a comprehensive knowledge of mitigation investigative principles, practices, methods and techniques.


The physical demands described are representative of those required in order for an individual to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
While performing the duties of this job, the individual is regularly required to sit and talk or hear. The individual frequently is required to use hands to touch, handle or feel. The individual must occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds. Frequent travel is required. The individual works primarily in an office environment.