A Commitment To Excellence

A Passion For Justice




About Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.

Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. (FDSDI) is the Federal Community Defender Organization for the Southern District of California. FDSDI, a nonprofit entity organized under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(g)(2)(B), represents indigent persons accused of federal offenses in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. FDSDI has offices in downtown San Diego and El Centro, California. FDSDI is independent from the local federal judiciary and is funded by a sustaining grant from Congress under the Criminal Justice Act. A nine-member Board of Directors oversees the work of FDSDI. 

FDSDI’s proximity to the United States/Mexico border strongly influences its caseload and advocacy efforts. While a majority of its clients are charged with immigration and drug-related offenses, FDSDI handles a broad variety of federal cases, including white-collar, conspiracy, RICO, firearm, and violent offenses.

With an operating budget of $29 million, FDSDI employs 65 trial and appellate attorneys, and more than 100 support personnel. FDSDI’s distinguished trial and appellate departments are assisted by highly trained investigators, interpreters, bond assistants, and social workers.                               

The Executive Director Position

The FDSDI Executive Director is a highly skilled criminal defense attorney who has held a leadership position within a public defense organization and is passionate about representing indigent criminal defendants. This executive has advocated for the interests of the criminal defense community and the needs of the organization with government agencies, defender organizations, and the Courts. An effective leader, the Executive Director has a proven track record of collaborating with and leading senior managers, and a proven ability to motivate, support, and manage a diverse staff. As a proven administrator, the executive must ensure the sound fiscal and operational management of an organization with a $29 million budget and a staff of 171 individuals. The executive is skilled at raising awareness of federal defense work within the greater community, and in partnership with the Board, stewarding the work of the organization into the future.

Among the many duties of the Executive Director, this leader is responsible for:

Strategic Leadership

  • Serving as a mentor, role model, and elite practitioner of federal criminal defense practice.
  • Collaborating with the Board to develop plans for advancing the work and mission of FDSDI.
  • Maintaining consistent communication with the Board regarding critical budgetary, strategic, personnel, and program issues.
  • Working with FDSDI senior managers on the creation of policies, procedures, and strategies for advancing the work of the office.
  • Ensuring a high level of staff productivity and work-product quality throughout the organization while fostering employee morale.
  • Inspiring, supervising, and evaluating attorneys.
  • Implementing policies and practices to foster a diverse and inclusive staff.
  • Effectively representing FDSDI in all phases of litigation.


External Relations

  • Advocating for the interests of the defense community within the Southern District of California.
  • Advancing the interests of the federal defense system at the national level through individual advocacy and service on committees and advisory groups that inform policy.
  • Representing the organization though all manner of media relations and public speaking engagements at district conferences, meetings with the Courts, public events, etc.
  • Developing strategic relationships which assist FDSDI with contract and other business negotiations.


Administrative Management

  • Handling day-to-day personnel issues including conflict resolution, disciplinary action, termination processes, and union issues.
  • Spearheading contract negotiations.
  • Monitoring regulatory compliance and communicating compliance requirements effectively to others throughout FDSDI.
  • Developing and monitoring budgets and financial plans.
  • Working closely with the Board to ensure FDSDI’s compliance with fiduciary and regulatory responsibilities.
  • Ensuring policies and procedures are in place to protect FDSDI.



  • Highly proficient federal criminal defense practitioner.
  • Member of the California Bar (or willing to sit for the California bar exam).
  • In-depth knowledge of the federal defense organization regulatory environment.
  • Outstanding communication and relationship-building skills with an ability to work with a variety of internal and external stakeholders.
  • High-level management experience within a public defender organization.
  • Advocacy, public speaking, and media relations skills.
  • Experience supervising and mentoring a senior team and inspiring line staff.
  • A commitment to lead by example, a passion for federal criminal defense work, and dedication to the FDSDI mission.


Salary:  $176,300.

Posting Expiration Date: August 8, 2022

How to Apply:  Please submit a resume and cover letter to SanDiegoFederalDefenderED@gmail.com

FDSDI is an equal opportunity employer committed to inclusive hiring and dedicated to diversity and inclusion in its work and with its staff.


Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., is looking for an attorney with a demonstrated interest in indigent defense as well as excellent research and writing skills to join our team. The primary duties of trial attorneys at Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. are to represent indigent persons accused of federal crimes at all stages of their court proceedings.

Trial attorneys interview clients prior to their first appearances, make sure that an attorney is assigned, fight for bail and conduct detention hearings. For clients that are assigned to Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. for the remainder of their cases, trial attorneys review discovery, convey offers, represent clients at their preliminary hearings, arraignments on indictment, waivers of indictment, and/or jury trial. Trial attorneys handle cases arising from complaints and/or indictments filed by the federal government.  They also handle identity and removal hearings as well as supervised release revocation proceedings.


Trial attorneys are expected to prepare their own cases for trial, including but not limited to: investigation, witness preparation, organizing a brain storm of the case for the other attorneys in the office, writing cross-examinations, opening statements, and closing arguments. If a case is lost at the district court level, the trial attorney will also represent the client on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. During the appeal, the trial attorney will brain storm the appeal with her appellate supervisor, do legal research, write the opening and reply briefs, and argue the case before the appellate courts.


Federal Defenders offers a competitive compensation package with excellent benefits. Compensation is commensurate with experience. Federal Defenders hires persons immediately following graduation from law school as well as attorneys finishing clerkships or other legal positions.

Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and detailed resume to:

Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.
Attn: Cassandra Lopez
225 Broadway, Ste. 900
San Diego, CA 92101

Or email a cover letter and detailed resume, writing sample, and list of references to: cassandra_l_lopez@fd.org

No Phone Calls.

Open until filled.