The Trial Unit of the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Central District of California represents people charged with federal offenses who cannot afford to retain their own attorney.  Our representation begins at the first bail hearing in front of a Federal Magistrate Judge and continues through trial or plea, and sentencing in front of a District Judge. Our office also participates in post-plea and post-conviction alternative courts.

We vigorously advocate for our clients at every step of the criminal process.  Our tasks range from investigation and drafting and filing motions, to arguing the merits of each case in front of a District Judge or jury.

The MSW students assist teams of attorneys, investigators, paralegals, and legal assistants to support clients in a variety of ways.  We have partnerships with the University of Southern California (USC), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), California State University at Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), and California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA).

The students help the teams identify cultural and bio-psychosocial factors relevant to a client’s background. They also conduct research and draft memos about a variety of sentencing and mental health issues, occasionally provide the clients with case management support, and assist in locating community-based resources and making referrals for clients. This is a very hands-on and fast-paced internship.


In the past, our MSW interns have worked on the following projects:

  • Researching and developing sentencing strategies for clients
  • Cultivating positive relationships with clients, their families and their support systems
  • Researching mental health and substance abuse treatments/programs
  • Supporting alternative courts
  • Locating sentencing records and witnesses
  • Reviewing mitigation records for relevant mental health information
  • Developing social histories for use in sentencing memos


We seek applicants dedicated to serving racially and socioeconomically oppressed communities, and to collaboratively contribute to the defense of our clients. We only take students who are referred by field programs at unverisities with whom we partner. Currently, we are partnering with the following universities:

  • California State University Los Angeles
  • California State University Dominguez Hills
  • California State University San Bernardino
  • California State University Fullerton
  • University of Southern California
  • University of California Los Angeles

To apply to our MSW internship program, please contact the field placement program at your university.

The FPD-CDCA is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All applicants, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or age, are encouraged to apply.