Barry P Helft Fellowship

Barry P. Helft Appellate Fellowship

Despite the current moratorium on executions, prosecutors across California continue to seek the death penalty, especially against indigent Black and Brown defendants, perverting the concept of justice. A changing political climate could place our clients in jeopardy. That’s why we need your help. We are looking to train the next generation of capital appellate defenders. As a Barry P. Helft Fellow, you will undertake extensive instruction on California capital law, including the nuts and bolts of the appellate process, and gain extensive experience in legal research and writing, with mentorship and training throughout your tenure.

As you develop your skills, you will join teams of experienced appellate attorneys in providing client support, evaluating trial records, issue spotting, brainstorming ideas for novel legal claims, and ultimately drafting arguments to be heard by the California Supreme Court. You will have the opportunity to work on systemic claims and targeted amicus briefing challenging racial and class inequities of our criminal legal system. If you are looking for impactful work that will mold you into the best legal writer you can be, welcome to the Barry P. Helft Fellowship.

The Fellowship program seeks to enhance the quality of representation provided to indigent appellate defendants by fostering a new generation of diverse attorneys qualified to join statewide appellate panels and handle capital cases. Increasing diversity among the appellate bar enhances intercultural competence, leading to better case outcomes for clients marginalized by a racist and classist criminal system. The Fellowship provides a salary dependent on experience and bar membership, as well as excellent benefits, including generous leave programs, healthcare, vision, dental, and retirement.

About Barry P. Helft

In his nearly 50 years of law practice, Barry Helft handled cases in courts ranging from Justice of the Peace Court in Texas to the United States Supreme Court. He also engaged in ancillary activities such as authoring a six-volume set of books on Texas criminal trial and appellate practice as well as authoring sections—most notably the chapter on state appeals—in the California Criminal Defense Practice set; writing several law review articles; lecturing at several law schools; teaching at various trial and appellate advocacy seminars; writing for general publications, and so much more. But his name is not attached to this fellowship for any of these things.

Rather, it is his 25-year contribution to OSPD that has caused this fellowship to be named after him in a representational sense. Representational because the spirit of this fellowship is embodied by the hundreds of lawyers who have labored at OSPD during the course of its existence. Barry Helft is an apt representative for these committed lawyers because he held every position extant at OSPD over the course of his tenure, e.g., deputy, senior deputy, supervising deputy, chief deputy, Assistant State Public Defender, Chief Assistant State Public Defender, Director of Legal Training, Director of Capital Litigation, and Interim State Public Defender. His name is attached to this fellowship as the embodiment of the vow that lawyers at OSPD make to their clients to provide the best representation available; a goal that is achieved by the commitment OSPD makes to its own lawyers to provide the support necessary for them to fulfill this vow. Barry Helft made the same assertion to each lawyer he trained: Regardless of your skill level when starting at OSPD, you will be a better lawyer when you leave than you were when you started. The goal of this fellowship is to continue to fulfill that promise to the next generation of appellate defenders.


Alexander Post (