You are here

Death Penalty/Pro Se Law Clerk

$62,236 - $136,271
JSP 11 - JSP 14
December 17, 2019
Open until filled


The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama is accepting applications for the position of Death Penalty/Pro Se law clerk. The incumbent will work on both capital and non-capital habeas corpus and pro se prisoner civil rights cases as needed. The work schedule for this position is 40 hours a week with 20 hours devoted to pro se work and 20 hours devoted to death penalty work. Funding for the position is from year to year, reviewed annually, and based on the number of case filings. This position does not involve representing clients or providing advice to pro se litigants. Ethical considerations prohibit the lawyer employed in this position from practicing law in any capacity for compensation outside or in addition to work for the Court.

The position will be in the United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama; however, the court will consider applications from experienced law clerks in over-capacity districts who are interested in teleworking with less frequent attendance in-district.


  • Review, calendar, and manage all state death penalty habeas corpus petitions and motions to vacate federal death sentences, and section 1983 challenge to execution protocols or methods.
  • Determine whether petitions and pleadings meet the requirements of federal and local procedural rules, form, payment of fees, and service. Return those documents that do not conform to the statutes or rules, with instructions for necessary compliance.
  • Perform legal research and prepare recommendations to the Court relating to stays of execution, jurisdiction, scheduling, exhaustion of remedies, discovery, motions for evidentiary hearing, disposition on the merits and certificates of appealability.
  • Draft appropriate recommendations, opinions, orders and correspondence for the Court.
  • Regularly inform the Court as to the status of death penalty cases and execution dates.
  • Perform other duties as assigned, which may include work on other habeas or prisoner cases.
  • Legal research and writing; conducting computer legal research; drafting orders and opinions for judicial review; providing information, guidance and advice to judges on legal issues relating to each case; and making recommendations to judges on individual cases.
  • Communicating with other courts, state and federal agencies, counsel, litigants and court staff regarding court rules and procedural issues, calendaring and other litigation matters.
  • Keeping abreast of changes in the law from the Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit.


All candidates must be law school graduates, and must have a thorough knowledge of the law and legal procedures. Experience and skill in writing legal memoranda, opinions, orders, and other documents is required. Experience and skill in the oral presentation of complicated legal matters to judges is required. Applicants with Death Penalty case experience is preferred.

The successful candidate should demonstrate:

  • Excellent organizational skills and experience handling multiple tasks and projects.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills and the ability to work effectively with a variety of people in person, by email, and on the phone.
  • Ability to work without supervision.
  • Experience with Microsoft Office, WordPerfect, Westlaw or Lexis, or equivalent.
  • Ability to work with strict deadlines and in a fast-paced environment.


Legal work experience is progressively responsible experience in the practice of law, in legal research, legal administration, or equivalent experience received after graduation from law school. Major or substantial legal activities while in military service may be credited, on a month-for-month basis whether before or after graduation, but not to exceed one year if before graduation.

The table below shows the number of years of legal work experience required to qualify for appointment as a law clerk at the applicable JSP grade level. Please note that appointment to a JSP-12 or above requires that the candidate be a member of the bar of a state, territory, or federal court of general jurisdiction.

JSP Grade Level

Years of legal work experience

Bar Membership Required













*For JSP-14, two of the three required years of legal work experience must have been served in the federal judiciary as a chambers law clerk, staff attorney, pro se law clerk, bankruptcy appellate panel law clerk, or death penalty law clerk.


The District Court is within the Judicial Branch of the United States Government and its employees are entitled to federal employees benefits such as a pension plan, retirement saving plan with excellent matching, group health insurance, life insurance, dental, vision, long term disability, long term care programs, flexible spending accounts, and generous paid time off.


  • Only qualified applicants will be considered for this position.
  • Applicants must be United States citizens or eligible to work in the United States.
  • A background investigation with law enforcement agencies, including fingerprint and criminal record check, will be conducted as a condition of employment. Any applicant selected for the position will be hired provisionally pending successful completion of investigation. Unsatisfactory results may result in termination of employment.
  • Employees of the US District Court are “At Will” employees and must adhere to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees.
  • Payment of salary is subject to the mandatory electronic fund transfer (direct deposit) to a financial institution.
  • Participation in the interview process will be at the applicant’s own expense. The Court will not pay for relocation expenses.
  • Only those applicants selected for an interview will be contacted.


Submit one document in PDF format via e-mail to that includes the following:

  • A cover letter, summarizing interest and related skills;
  • A resume, including a list of professional references;
  • A writing sample of no more than ten pages;
  • A completed AO 78, Application for Federal Judicial Branch Employment (AO78 available at
  • A law school transcript may thereafter be required, at the discretion of the Court.


The United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama, reserves the right to modify the conditions of this job announcement, to withdraw the job announcement, or to fill the position earlier than the closing date. Any of which may occur without prior written notice. This Court is an Equal Opportunity / EDR Employer.