Mitigation Specialist

The State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) is seeking to hire full and part-time Mitigation Specialists to assist in legal representation of our indigent clients.

SADO is Michigan’s award-winning, statewide, indigent appellate defense provider. SADO represents indigent clients on appeal of their criminal convictions and other post-conviction proceedings. Mitigation Specialists are a crucial part of the defense team and work with attorneys and clients to develop strategy for appeals and new sentencing hearings. The Mitigation Specialist will perform a variety of functions with the end goal of improving sentencing outcomes for clients.

SADO expects openings for Mitigation Specialists in two units. The Direct Appeals Unit represents individuals who appeal their felony convictions and sentences. Appellate relief often requires SADO attorneys to return to the trial court to advocate for clients at resentencing, with the assistance of the Mitigation Specialist. The Juvenile Lifer Unit represents individuals who were unconstitutionally sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed as children and who are now entitled to new sentences and eligible for an opportunity for release. Although there are many similarities between the two units in the work performed, projects in the Juvenile Lifer Unit generally tend to be longer term, involve lengthier records, and entail far more complex sentencing hearings.

The Direct Appeals Unit position is a permanent position, while the Juvenile Lifer Unit is funded year to year by the State, with funding expected for at least three more years. This posting is for full and part-time positions in both units.

Specific duties may include, but are not limited to:

  • Travel to correctional institutions to visit with incarcerated clients to learn about their background, the facts of the offense, current experiences while incarcerated, and specific needs upon release;
  • Interview family, friends, community members, and other individuals to compile material in mitigation of sentence;
  • Counsel clients on reentry strategy and availability of social service and reentry programs;
  • Research and help implement available social services for clients who have an opportunity for a new sentence that could include community placement;
  • Network and collaborate with probation officers, Department of Corrections professionals, various public and private reentry projects, circuit courts, and social services organizations;
  • Obtain, analyze and summarize records and documents, including prison records, social files, school records, and medical and mental health records;
  • Prepare reports, including client and witness interview memos, social history reports and sentencing memoranda;
  • Identify and consult with appropriate experts to obtain reports and prepare for hearings;
  • Prepare clients for testifying in court or presenting allocution;
  • Testify in court;
  • Train attorneys and staff on mitigation and parole hearings.


  • Education in social work, social science, psychology, forensic psychology, criminal justice or a related field;
  • Knowledge of the criminal justice system, preferably in Michigan;
  • Experience in investigation;
  • Excellent communication, interviewing, and interpersonal skills;
  • The ability to prioritize a significant workload and high-volume caseload;
  • Ability to work flexible hours, including evenings, nights, and early mornings, and to travel throughout the state to attend hearings, meet with incarcerated clients, interview witnesses, and obtain mitigation material;
  • Outstanding writing and organizational skills;
  • Flexible and creative thinking;
  • The ability to work as part of the defense team under the lead of the case attorney, and maintain confidentiality;
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Word and Outlook, Adobe Acrobat, Excel, and general office equipment.

SADO offers training and mentoring, and fosters an environment of success and support. With offices in Detroit and Lansing, SADO’s fifty-plus staff members form a community advocating for clients and a fair criminal justice system. Visit to learn more.

Salary will depend on experience. The expected start date for these positions is October 1, and includes health, dental, vision, 401k/457 plans, twelve paid holidays, three weeks of vacation during the first year, training, and a flexible work environment.

TO APPLY: Submit a resume, redacted writing sample, and a cover letter stating your interest in the position, preferred mitigation specialist unit (candidates may apply for both positions), and preference for full-time or part-time work.

Writing sample special instructions: Evaluation of all applicants and application material is done objectively. Please redact your name, address, work affiliation, and jurisdictional identifiers from your writing sample. Save your writing sample file as “WritingSample.pdf” and do not include your name on the file.

Applications should be submitted by August 26, 2019 to:

Attn: Wendy Dealca
State Appellate Defender Office
645 Griswold, Ste 3300
Detroit, MI 48226
Email: Fax: 313.965.0372

SADO is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to diversity in the workplace. People of color, women, LGBTQ people, veterans, people with disabilities, and individuals with past involvement in the justice system are encouraged to apply.