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Special Program Director (Operation Lone Star | Public Defender Division)



Special Program Director — Operation Lone Star | Public Defender Division SAN ANTONIO (HYBRID/REMOTE)

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) seeks a Special Program Director for the management and administration of the Operation Lone Star Team. This team represents clients charged under Operation Lone Star (OLS) which includes both felony and misdemeanor trial level cases and the appeals. OLS 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. Attorneys within the OLS team will work under the supervision of the Special Program Director to provide clients with high-quality representation from intake to resolution, including advice on the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction.   

TRLA Public 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 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 Public 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 public 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 TRLA’s Operation Lone Star Team 

  • Reports to the TRLA PD Division Deputy Director; 

  • 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, 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 5 years of experience practicing law. 

  • At least 2 years of experience as a supervising attorney, training director, division director, or other managerial role in a public defender office or immigration law firm. 

  • Substantial trial and/or training experience in public defense and/or immigration law. 

  • Demonstrated commitment and experience working with low-income clients and local advocacy organizations representing communities most impacted. 

  • Demonstrated management and leadership skills; 

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

  • Professional fluency in Spanish (highly preferred). 

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.    

Additionally, applicants will demonstrate a strong interest and dedication to defending migrants ensnared in the Operation Lone Star criminal justice system, including a commitment to providing fierce advocacy.  Preferred applicants will also have demonstrated a commitment to immigrants’ rights and social justice and have experience working with diverse populations including non-English-speaking immigrant communities.  All applicants should possess the ability to work independently and cooperatively, to stay calm in crisis, and flexibility to respond to urgent client needs in an evolving legal environment.   

To Apply: 
Complete online application.  You will need to upload a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and a list of professional references.


Submission Deadline: 
November 5, 2023
Organization Information: 
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA)
301 S. Texas Avenue
Mercedes, TX 78750
United States
Phone: 956-447-4800