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Chief Public Defender (Operation Lone Star Project)

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) seeks a Chief Public Defender for the management and administration of the new Maverick County Regional Public Defender Office, serving the counties of Maverick, Dimmit and Zavala. This office will accept felony cases under Operation Lone Star. Operation Lone Star is a state initiative that attempts to militarize the border, criminalize those seeking asylum, and create a separate and unequal criminal justice system targeting migrants.   

TRLA’s Public Defender program serves over 10 rural Texas counties in Southwest Texas. Currently, TRLA has public defender offices in Beeville, Hallettsville, Goliad, Rio Grande City, Harlingen, and Floresville. Each of these offices provides indigent defense for one or more of the counties near the office locations.  TRLA PD offices are located near various natural and cultural attractions. They are also within reasonable driving distances from metro areas with international airports.  

TRLA Defenders are frontline advocates who have engaged in the movement to transform the criminal justice system and challenge the injustices faced by indigent defendants in rural south Texas for over a decade. TRLA Defenders provide complete, vertical representation from intake to resolution. Except for cases involving a conflict of interest or the death penalty, TRLA Defenders represent persons accused of crimes from initial arrest to final appeal.    

TRLA delivers client-centered legal services to address the unique needs and limited resources available to clients residing in rural and border communities.  Special initiatives within TRLA’s Defender division include advice on the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction, trauma-informed and mental health advocacy, assistance with applying for government aid and/or housing, and assistance with substance abuse as alternative solutions to incarceration.  

With caseload controls, staff investigators, mental health and substance abuse caseworkers, and a litigation budget, TRLA is deeply committed to zealous, high-quality representation in rural South Texas. Attorney benefits include law school loan repayment assistance, generous paid leave, healthcare insurance, retirement plan, and training & travel stipends. TRLA defenders train with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Gideon’s Promise, the National Association for Public Defense, and other associations that are committed to the transformation of indigent defense and criminal justice reform.  

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Supervise and direct the work of all staff assigned to the Public Defender office; 

  • Manage attorney teams on their cases from intake to final resolution, including pretrial, trial, appeals, and additional motion practice, as needed;  

  • Identify systemic issues within their service area and assist the PD Division Deputy Director in developing creative solutions and ways to engage the community stakeholders;   

  • Mentor and train staff attorneys office-wide, by conducting file reviews, developing trainings, attending court hearings with their attorneys, and serving as lead counsel or co-counsel on trials with new lawyers, as needed;  

  • Maintain a supportive and positive work environment for their team; and 

  • Contribute to the progress and development of the Public Defender Division as a whole. 



  • Licensed to practice law in Texas or willing to take the next available Texas bar exam; 

  • At least five years of criminal litigation experience as a licensed attorney; 

  • At least 3 felony trials before a jury as lead counsel; 

  • Demonstrated management and leadership skills; 

  • Proficiency in Office365, legal research software, and other case management systems; and 

  • Professional fluency in Spanish (highly preferred). 

  • Must reside in Eagle Pass.

Preferred applicants will demonstrate a commitment to indigent defense and criminal justice reform; have worked in a public defender office; have exceptional advocacy, management, and leadership skills; are solution oriented and creative in their ideas on how to solve systemic issues within the criminal justice system; are passionate about the development and training of the new generation of the indigent defense attorneys; and want to live and work in communities where TRLA clients have the greatest needs.   TRLA is also looking for attorneys that aspire to become leaders both within the division and in the larger public defender community.    

TRLA is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to an equitable workplace.   This position requires, consistent with TRLA’s policy and subject to applicable law, a candidate to provide proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination prior to commencing employment.



To Apply: 

Complete online application at:


Submission Deadline: 
December 19, 2023
Organization Information: 
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA)
301 S. Texas Avenue
Mercedes, TX 78750
United States
Phone: 956-447-4800