Criminal and Community Defense Clinic
LW.10051 / LW.10536
No prerequisites or co-requisites. Criminal Procedure or Criminal Litigation are recommended.
The Criminal and Community Defense Clinic will be offered to 8 students as a year-long 14-credit fieldwork course and seminar. Students should expect to devote 12-15 hours per week to their fieldwork. This clinic offers students an exciting vehicle through which they can begin to explore the ways that defenders can provide holistic representation to clients charged with criminal offenses. It also allows students to explore the ways that defenders can work in collaboration with community groups and their clients to address broad, pressing issues in the criminal justice system.
The clinic will utilize an interdisciplinary approach to explore ways that defender offices can be more grounded in the communities from which their clients come and to which they will return. The clinic will also focus on ways that defender offices can assume a more activist role in the criminal justice community and in the broader community in which their clients reside.
Students will observe, collaborate and consult with defenders in the newly formed Youth Unit of Brooklyn Defender Services as they seek more effective approaches to representing young people charged in the adult criminal justice system. Students will be assigned to work with lawyers in this unit and will have the opportunity to work directly on criminal matters facing clients. That work will involve intake, investigation, working with witnesses, legal research and court hearings.
The fieldwork is designed to expose the students to the important work involved in individual representation, but it is also designed to provide a vehicle for exploring how the defender office might enhance services to clients ranging in age from 16 to 22. The fieldwork will offer students a chance to examine how defenders frame the problems they address and the strategies they deploy. What does it mean to provide client-centered holistic representation? Are the issues facing this population of clients different from other clients? What strategies might this new unit employ to assist clients tackle the problems they are facing? Do the strategies employed more accurately reflect what might best addresses the problem (such as work with community partners) or what the office routinely regards as lawyer's work? These questions put squarely into issue just how well-grounded defender offices generally are in the issues faced by their clients and in the communities from which their clients come. Do they understand community views about criminal justice policies, community concerns about young offenders in the criminal justice system, community attitudes toward defenders and their clients? Do defenders see themselves as accountable in any way to these communities? Should defenders play a part in educating communities about the criminal justice system?
Some feel for the fieldwork of the clinic can be found in our work in previous years. Fieldwork has included the following:
- Working with clients and witnesses in the preparation of defenses to criminal charges.
- Legal research in preparation for matters that arise in criminal cases.
- Appearances in court in arraignment hearings.
- Devising and implementing a comprehensive legal needs assessment to determine the services a neighborhood-based defender office should provide.
- Advocating, in coalition with other community-based providers, for the use of alternatives to incarceration and sentencing reform.
- Advising clients with criminal records on their legal rights and obligations related to employment.
- Conducting initial interviews with clients and their families seeking representation.
- Collaborating with social work staff to match services within the community to individual client needs.
- Advocating for other policies that facilitate the reentry of individuals returning to their communities.
The will examine various conceptions of the role of the defender office in an effort to begin developing a vision that treats individual representation as the primary, but not sole responsibility of a defender office. Students will be introduced to approaches that attempt to move defender offices toward more community-based, activist roles in the political and justice systems. Students will explore the range of roles that defenders can play in advocating for their clients and client communities. Students will be exposed to principles of problem-identification and problem-solving as theoretical constructs. Then, through case studies of individual representation, outreach, education and organizing initiatives, students will closely examine ambitions, methods and achievements in light of those theories. The interdisciplinary approach of the seminar is designed to encourage students to share ideas and theories across disciplines as a means of developing stronger analytical, consensus-building and leadership skills.
The seminar will also provide a forum for a collaborative effort with staff from local defender offices and justice advocacy groups to begin the process of moving beyond the defender's constitutional mandate to represent individual clients charged with crimes toward a role that involves greater participation in the larger community. The seminar will explore various policy roles that defender offices might begin to assume. Students will examine the tendency of traditional defender offices to isolate themselves from the larger community and will attempt to determine whether and how these offices might become more actively involved with client communities, the media and others in position of influence to shape and advance an agenda on behalf of defenders' client base.
The seminar will include simulations and materials to expose students to various forms of advocacy. Lawyers who represent individuals charged in the criminal justice system need to have a varied arsenal at their disposal. The seminar will expose to students to media advocacy, legislative advocacy, and community advocacy. It will also help students develop the skills to advocate for innovations in indigent defense with foundations. Students will explore ways to develop facts and frame issues, collaborate with staff and communities, and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies that have been developed. Class discussions will examine the differences between - and interrelationship of - individual and group representation, informal and formal advocacy, and litigation and non-litigation strategies.
Please submit your clinic application, resume and unofficial transcript through CAMS, the online application system. There will be an interview which can be scheduled on CAMS. If you have any questions, please contact Damaris Marrero at 212-998-6473 or email@example.com.
* 14 credits includes 3 clinical credits and 4 academic seminar credits per semester.