Equal Justice and Defender Externship

LW.11245 / LW.11427
Professor Bryan Stevenson
Professor Randy Susskind
Open to 3L and 2L students
Maximum of 10 students
Spring semester
9 credits*
Pre- or Co-Requisite: Racial Justice Law and Eighth Amendment Law and Litigation (see “Qualifications for Applicants” below)


Students in the Equal Justice and Defender Clinic will provide direct assistance to death row prisoners in Alabama, children who have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, or other inmates facing extreme punishment. Students will also work on racial justice projects with staff attorneys at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery. The clinic will be offered as a nine-credit course in the Fall Semester, in connection with Racial Justice Law and Eighth Amendment Law and Litigation.

Course Description

The course will focus on collateral litigation challenging death sentences and other excessive punishment in Alabama where many indigent death row inmates are without counsel and where many inmates have been condemned to die in prison for crimes committed when they were children. Students will be involved in the development of strategies for successfully challenging unconstitutional convictions and sentences, the investigation and collection of information from clients and witnesses, and the review of documentary evidence. Students will draft petitions and pleadings that will ultimately be filed on behalf of condemned or unfairly convicted prisoners. Students will also study the history of racial inequality in the United States and work on projects that engage communities in the South that have experienced extreme racial violence and terror with a goal of helping communities confront these histories in a meaningful way.


The clinic will involve periodic travel for all students to the Deep South for investigative work, interviewing and local research. Students will perform simulations of investigation interviews and techniques to enhance effectiveness in fieldwork.

Students will work on pending cases that are currently being managed by the Equal Justice Initiative, and will spend time with condemned prisoners, conduct legal research and writing on active cases, conduct investigative work and interact with families of clients. Students will assist EJI on community projects that relate racial history with contemporary racial inequality.

The Seminar

The seminar component of the course will complement the fieldwork with an intensive analysis of the legal, strategic, ethical and cultural issues that students confront in their clinical work, as well as a study of the broader political, social and institutional norms which influence the lives of clients and create obstacles to successful litigation. The seminar will stress the importance of developing skills with respect to building relationships with clients, interviewing witnesses, identifying legal issues, and developing theories of relief or change.

Qualifications for Applicants

The Equal Justice and Defender Clinic will be offered in the Fall Semester for a total of nine credits (seven clinical credits and two seminar credits). In addition to the clinic, students are required to take the relevant substantive courses associated with the clinic work: Racial Justice Law and Eighth Amendment Law and Litigation. If a student has already taken one of these courses, a directed research opportunity will be offered for two additional credits.

Application Procedure

Students should submit via CAMS the standard application, resume and unofficial transcript. Applicants should submit as lengthy a response to Question 4 of the standard application as they feel necessary and may ignore the 300 word limit. The clinic assistant, Noelia Rodriguez, will contact you via email to schedule an interview. If you have questions regarding the application procedure, please contact Noelia Rodriguez at (212) 998-6459 or via email.

Student Contacts

Current NYU students who were in the 2015 clinic: Jean-Luc Adrien ’17, Aimee Carlisle ’16, Angela Groves ’17, Samuel Lacy ’17, Evan Milligan ’16, Adam Murphy ’17, Kathleen Taylor ’17, Erica Washington ’17.

* 9 credits include 7 clinical credits and 2 academic seminar credits.