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Public Defender Interviewing Process

1:34:56 – 10/07/2014

Interviewing for a public defender job is uniquely challenging — interviews can be confrontational, are frequently intense, and usually involve on-the-spot hypotheticals. Being aware of what you might face during your interviews is crucial to landing a public defender job. Watch the video of OPIA and a panel of practicing public defenders to learn the nuts-and-bolts of effective PD interviewing.

Panelists include:

  • Seann Riley, Deputy Director and Training Team Leader, Bronx Defenders
  • Dominique Winters ’10, Staff Attorney, Public Defender Service for D.C.
  • Jennifer McKinnon, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School
  • Chanta Parker, Supervising Attorney, Legal Aid Society (according to Linkedin)
  • Moderator: Dehlia Umunna, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Institute

Seann Riley is the Deputy Director of The Bronx Defenders, a public defender office nationally recognized for pioneering holistic representation. He joined The Bronx Defenders in 2004 as a staff attorney, and represented clients in misdemeanor and felony matters. In 2006, he became the Team Leader for the Training Team, responsible for training and supervising new attorneys in their first year of practice. Seann trained and supervised the first Inter-disciplinary Training Team at The Bronx Defenders, and created the first interdisciplinary training for new lawyers. Seann graduated from Tulane Law School in 2002, where he was the recipient of Tulane University’s Outstanding Leadership and Service Award for two consecutive years. While at Tulane Law School, Seann created a Street Law Program, bringing law students into inner-city public schools to teach students their constitutional rights. Following law school, Seann was an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he represented clients in D.C. Superior Court, as well as supervised third year law students in the Criminal Justice Clinic. In 2005, he received an LLM in Trial Advocacy from The Georgetown Law Center. Seann is a faculty member with The Southern Public Defender Training Center and has been an adjunct professor at both Fordham and Seton Hall Law Schools. Since 2005, He has been on the Advisory Board for Bronx Community Solutions, a Center for Court Innovation program in New York City. Each year Seann assists with the selection of JK Watson Fellows, a program assisting inner city college students attending NYC colleges with their professional ambitions. Seann received his B.A. from Georgetown University in 1995 and earned his Master’s in Social Work from The University of Michigan in 1999. He can be emailed at

As a Staff Attorney in the Trial Division of Public Defender Service in Washington, DC, Dominique Winters ’10 represents clients charged primarily with armed robbery, carjacking, burglary, and sexual abuse at arraignment, pretrial hearings, jury trials, and post-conviction hearings. She investigates cases, conduct legal research, and draft motions and memoranda. Supervise and train investigators, law clerks, and interns. Dominique also attends trainings on advanced trial advocacy techniques and serves on panels on behalf of the agency. In addition, she is the Co-Founder and an Instructor for PDS Criminal Defense Trial Practice institute in Washington, D.C., where she recruits law school students from across the country to participate in week long, intensive program designed to help students cultivate effective trial advocacy skills and to explore indigent criminal defense work. Dominique conducts lectures on opening statements, direct and cross examinations, closing arguments, as well as how to develop defense theories and utilize evidentiary rules. As part of the Howard University Mock Trial Team, Dominique mentors students on developing superior trial advocacy skills, instructs team members on the rules of evidence, case law, and statutes, and leads practice and attend trial competitions. She can be contacted at DWinters@PDSDC.ORG.

Jennifer McKinnon joined the Criminal Justice Institute this year as a Clinical Instructor. Previously, she was the Attorney in Charge of the CPCS office (the public defender agency in Massachusetts) that covers Norfolk county district courts. Prior to becoming the Attorney in Charge, Attorney McKinnon was a supervisor in the CPCS Roxbury/Dorchester office, and a staff attorney in the Boston Trial Unit, where she tried numerous felony cases in Suffolk Superior Court. She is a 2003 graduate of New England School of Law. Jen can be reached at

Chantá Parker was born and raised in the beautiful seaport town of Savannah, Georgia. While she presently calls Brooklyn, New York, home, Chantá once lived in New Orleans, Louisiana and that city still holds a special place in her heart. Chantá graduated from the New York University School of Law in 2006 and completed her undergraduate degree in African American History at Spelman College in 2003. Chantá is a public defender and hopes to be one for a very long time. Currently, she is a supervising attorney in the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society’s Brooklyn office. Prior to joining the Legal Aid Society, Chantá served as a staff attorney with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and as a felony trial attorney with the Orleans Public Defenders. Raised in a family of strong women in the helping professions, Chantá has been dedicated to public service for much of her life, having worked with the Georgia Legal Services Program, the Georgia High School Mock Trial Program, the National Black Law Students Association, and the NYU Law Public Service Auction. Currently, Chantá is an executive board member of the Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Alumni Association of the New York University School of Law. What is Chantá’s passion? “Every day that I walk into court, I strive to be a beautifully brilliant and strong warrior woman protecting my people from the oppressive power of the state. I continue in this work because I want to see more young men and women of color walking proudly and triumphantly alongside their attorneys who go to battle for them and look like them.” Chantá is committed to encouraging young people of color to become public defenders and supporting them in the work because of the transformative power young attorneys of color can have on the criminal justice system. Chantá is most proud of her work with Gideon’s Promise, a premier training program for public defenders in the South that was featured in the award-winning documentary, “Gideon’s Army” in 2013. A graduate of Gideon’s Promise, Chantá now serves as a trainer, mentor and speaker for the organization. Chantá uses music to sooth her soul and energize her body for the journey. Believing that music is best consumed in wide-open spaces, Chantá enjoys music festivals and outdoor concerts. She can be reached at