Mental Health Paralegal, Municipal Court

Orleans Public DefendersNew orleans, LouisianaFull TimeOn Site


OPD is seeking a Paralegal for its Mental Health Unit in Municipal Court.

OPD’s Municipal Mental Health Unit (MHU-muni) provides intensive, individualized and holistic representation to clients with Serious Mental Illness and other mental health challenges facing charges in Municipal Court. MHU-muni provides ethical client-centered representation and, through individualized treatment plans, advocates for clients to be treated in medical facilities rather than jail. The paralegal supports mental health-based treatment alternatives to incarceration of chronically mentally ill clients.

The Mental Health Paralegal is part of OPD’s client-centered representation offering holistic legal and social services to our clients and working for fair, community-oriented, legal outcomes for our clients. In an effort to address the rise in chronic mental health issues faced by our clients and community specifically in Municipal Court and expand our level of representation, the Mental Health Paralegal will provide a wide range of tasks to support the Mental Health Unit and will be the frontlines of assisting clients by working to reduce the reliance on incarceration for people suffering from mental health issues, work to reduce and/or eliminate prohibitive bonds, and advocate for treatment-based alternatives to incarceration for clients throughout the case process.

Working with the rest of the defense team, the Paralegal will identify clients in need, coordinate with court and service providers to provide immediate and ongoing treatment and care for clients in crisis and suffering from mental health issues, provide administrative, communication and intake support at first appearances and throughout the case process. The Municipal Mental Health Paralegal will assist MHU-muni attorneys and mental health professionals in and out of court; specifically through docket and case management, data and information gathering, file creation, document preparation, and client advocacy.

More specifically, the Mental Health Paralegal (MHP) will include:

First Appearance Support, Intake, and Bond Advocacy for Pre-trial Release
The MHP will provide administrative and advocacy support at designated First Appearance sessions in Municipal Court. First Appearances occur daily, including weekends and holidays. At a First Appearance proceedings, the MHP will facilitate initial client intake, gather and provide relevant information to clients, facilitate initial bond outreach, and ensure all case information is updated within the case management system,

Client Advocacy & Support
During regularly scheduled shifts, the MHP will provide services to community members who visit the office and clients who call from jail, including:
Walk-in Services: assist MHU-muni clients and their families with questions and concerns regarding case status, upcoming court dates, service requests, etc.
Medical Advocacy: coordinate with client, family, MHU-muni team, jail medical staff and outside health providers in an effort to ensure client receives appropriate in-custody care for all mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, anxiety, and ensure client’s safety in jail.
Placement Services: assist in identifying and securing appropriate placement such as shelters, temporary housing, outpatient or inpatient medical, mental health, or rehabilitation facilities) as an alternative to detention and facilitate the logistics of client’s successful release from jail; prepare any necessary materials for advocacy before the judge including medical records; and maintain the client’s case files accordingly.

Institutional Development
The MHP will help develop and consolidate intake, data collection and advocacy support work as a sustainable and permanent feature of MHU-muni’s institutional structure. Specifically, work to develop protocols, practices, procedures and policies for the efficient delivery of high-quality intake, advocacy support and client services; develop policy, guidance and reference forms and manuals; assist with long-term strategic planning.

Qualifications: Applicants must have a demonstrated commitment to indigent defense and public interest practice, especially relating to mental health. Applicants must be interested in working with individuals charged with criminal offenses from diverse cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds and those suffering from mental illness and in crisis. Applicants must possess the ability to communicate effectively with clients, witnesses, colleagues, staff and court personnel orally and in writing. The position requires excellent legal research and writing skills and knowledge of and commitment to the national standards of criminal defense. The ideal applicant will demonstrate comfort working in a high volume, fast paced legal environment and multi-tasking many different responsibilities and clients. The ideal applicant will have experience working in an established public defender or legal aid office that provides services consistent with OPD’s mission of client-centered, zealous representation. The ideal applicant will have experience with data collection, performance measures and/or statistical analysis. Familiarity with Orleans Parish Municipal Court a plus. Familiarity with working with persons diagnosed with serious mental illness a plus. Additionally, candidates must be ready and willing to advance this program and demonstrate its effectiveness to stakeholders and decision-makers.

To Apply: Qualified and interested applicants must submit all of the following to be considered for this position: cover letter explaining your interest in the position, resume, writing sample, and three references. Please complete the online application here. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. No phone calls.

This position is full time with competitive salary and benefits.

OPD is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants for employment will be considered without regard to race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, national origin, disability, veteran status or sexual orientation.

The Orleans Public Defenders provide representation to indigent criminal defendants in Orleans Parish. OPD’s mission is to fight for our clients by providing excellent client-centered representation, reforming the system and partnering with the community. OPD is committed to excellence in the provision of legal services for indigent defendants and client-centered representation that respects the humanity and dignity of those within the criminal justice system.

Location: 2601 Tulane Avenue
Suite 700
New Orleans,LA 70119, New Orleans, LA 70119

Job Type: Full-time

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