Senior Policy Attorney (Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center)
Southern Methodist University Inc

Dallas, Texas



Salary commensurate with experience and qualifications

About Us

Person-Centered. Data-Driven.
The Deason Center brings a Stats and Stories approach to criminal legal reform. The Stats: We collect, analyze, and assess the hard data that drive smart, sane, and sensible criminal justice reform. The Stories: We uncover, recount, and amplify the stories of people who live, work, and struggle in our criminal justice system. Together, our Stats and Stories make a compelling case for change.

Job Summary

The Senior Policy Attorney will direct the Deason Center's two-year campaign to challenge delayed and uncounseled first appearances and eliminate prolonged post-arrest delays in the filing of formal charges.

This is a two-year grant funded position.

Essential Functions

  • Lead the Deason Center's campaign to end injustice in initial appearance and formal charging. With the help of a Communications Specialist and a Policy Attorney, identify advocacy sites, create local partnerships, and develop and execute advocacy plans to combat delays and guarantee the right to counsel from initial appearance through formal charging.
  • Leading a team comprised of the Center's Policy Attorney and its Communications Specialist, produce reports and policy papers about initial appearance and formal charging. Coordinate the substantive components of a comprehensive website that maps initial appearance and formal charging practices across the United States and its territories.
  • Work an Advisory Board of criminal procedure experts and impacted individuals to create a litigation blueprint that will advance the constitutional right to: (1) a prompt, thorough, and counseled initial appearance, (2) a prompt post-arrest formal charging decision, and (3) the assistance of counsel and access to discovery before formal charging.
  • Working with the Director, litigate test cases in individual criminal cases in two jurisdictions. Drawing on lessons learned from the test litigation, support a Class Action Partner in developing and filing impact litigations in those jurisdictions,.
  • Manage grant reporting, complying with all grant milestone deadlines and providing reports as required by the grantor.


Education and Experience

A Juris Doctor and a minimum of seven (7) years of experience with criminal justice policy and litigation is required. The ideal candidate will be an experienced lawyer skilled at crafting and litigating the Fifth and Sixth Amendment issues.

Adminission in good standing in at least one state strongly preferred.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

The ideal candidate will demonstrate good judgment and the ability to handle confidential information, work with many different constituencies (judges, lawyers, stakeholders, staff), meet deadlines, and juggle competing priorities.

Candidate should have strong written, verbal, and interpesonal communication skills. A customer service orientation is key. Problem solving, time management, and project management skills are all required for this role.

Organizational and planning skills and attention to detail are must.

Proficiency with Microsoft Office products is required.

Physical and Environmental Demands
  • Bend, Stand
  • Handle Objects (Dexterity)
  • Sit for long periods of time.
Deadline to Apply

Priority consideration will be given to those who apply by 08/01/2021.

This position is open until filled.

COVID Vaccination

SMU must comply with President Biden's Executive Order (EO) 14042 requiring those that receive federal contracts and their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they apply for and are granted an exemption for religious or medical reasons.

For more information regarding this requirement, please visit our website.

EEO Statement

SMU will not discriminate in any program or activity on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. The Executive Director for Access and Equity/Title IX Coordinator is designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies and may be reached at the Perkins Administration Building, Room 204, 6425 Boaz Lane, Dallas, TX 75205, 214-768-3601,

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