News & Updates

Purpose. Dignity. Action. Seeks Staff Attorney
March 8, 2024 | Erin Stewart


Purpose. Dignity. Action (PDA) (formerly The Public Defender Association) is looking for a Staff Attorney to provide legal services to individuals who have been diverted away from criminal system involvement to LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion/Let Everyone Advance with Dignity) services, and to advocate for criminal legal system reform. PDA seeks an attorney motivated to help those most frequently harmed by existing criminal legal and social service systems, including those with disabilities, people of color, those living unsheltered, and survivors of past incarceration.

The Staff Attorney will assist LEAD participants in a widely-varied legal practice, ranging from criminal and eviction defense to family law and public benefits work. Although diverse/eclectic legal experience is very valuable, the most important characteristics applicants can possess are the ability to work independently and efficiently learn new legal practice areas, strong legal research and writing skills, and strong instinctive advocacy ability. The Staff Attorney may also assist with impact and appellate litigation, and policy advocacy as needs arise. Qualified candidates will enjoy developing creative legal and policy approaches to address the harms created by conventional responses to crime and public order issues.

Organization Description

PDA advocates for criminal legal system reform and develops alternatives that shift from a punishment paradigm to a system that supports individual and community health. Grounding reform in a public health and safety framework, PDA develops new strategies and implements models that improve on conventional responses to crime and public order issues. In collaboration with community and government partners, PDA uses policy advocacy, organizing, litigation, and public education to achieve its goals. PDA is comprised of several projects: Seattle King County LEAD project management, CoLEAD temporary lodging/outreach/housing advocacy, LEAD Support Bureau (international, national, and Washington State technical support for LEAD replication), and VOCAL-WA. PDA also catalyzed the JustCARE alternative to sweeps/displacement, to assist in resolution of encampments during the first two years of the COVID pandemic.

Job Description

The Staff Attorney will offer trauma-informed legal services to clients in the LEAD and CoLEAD programs, all of whom were referred and approved for program participation because of their exposure to enforcement and legal system sanctions. LEAD and CoLEAD are pre-booking community-based alternatives (not court-based). Participants tend to have a wide array of longstanding barriers and obstacles that need to be addressed to improve chances of stabilization, recovery and thriving; the effort to tackle many of these obstacles benefits from help from legal counsel.

The attorney will provide representation across a wide range of participants’ legal needs. Common practice areas include family law, public benefits issues, dependency law, debt relief, and warrant quash assistance. However, the legal practice is defined by its varied scope rather than a single focus area. Due to the varied scope, the position will require the Staff Attorney to connect clients to existing legal aid providers and learn new areas of law to provide direct representation.

LEAD clients face a variety of challenges, including homelessness, mental illness, and substance use, that can complicate their ability to engage with legal services. Legal services will be provided through the principles of harm-reduction—meeting clients where they are in a way that is responsive to their specific needs. The attorney will work closely with client case managers at the LEAD direct service provider agencies (presently, Evergreen Treatment Services REACH Program, Community Passageways, and Downtown Emergency Service Center’s (DESC) Community Outreach and Advocacy Team (COAT)), and case managers with PDA’s lodging-based CoLEAD program, to ensure that the legal representation plan aligns with the client’s broader social service goals.

The Staff Attorney may be part of PDA’s broader work of advancing criminal legal system reform to address racial disparities in the criminal legal system. This work may be done using policy advocacy, impact litigation, and/or legal representation, and limited lobbying. Examples of past reform work include permit advocacy to allow an art installation at Seattle City Hall on International Overdose Awareness Day; co-counseling the Trueblood litigation in the Western District of WA, leading to injunctive relief against the state for delays in providing competency evaluation and treatment services to mentally ill individuals held for months pre-trial in local jails; litigating a class action lawsuit seeking the refund of legal financial obligations under the WA Supreme Court’s State v. Blake decision; clemency advocacy; and representing an individual seeking resentencing under S.B. 6164.

The Staff Attorney will work on a team of five attorneys and two paralegals.

For a full job description and to apply, click here.