Federal Defender Clinic

LW.10783 / LW.10767
Professor Christopher A. Flood
Professor Amanda David
Open to 2L and 3L students
Maximum of 12 students

Year-long course
14 credits*
Prerequisites: Criminal Procedure, Evidence or a trial advocacy or litigation course**


Students in the Federal Defender Clinic (FDC) have been providing representation for indigent clients accused of misdemeanor offenses in the Eastern District of New York for over twenty-five years. The seminar is devoted to exploring the ethical foundations of client-centered advocacy and holistic representation, intensive litigation skill-building, and to critically examining the difficulties our clients face in the criminal justice system. Students spend approximately ten Tuesday mornings in federal court representing people accused of violations of federal law. Under supervision, FDC students conduct fieldwork consisting of all aspects of the client's case – interviews, negotiations, investigations, and litigation.

Course Description


The focus of the FDC is on providing client-centered representation in the area of federal misdemeanors and petty offenses. Fieldwork includes interviewing and counseling clients, investigating factual matters, developing legal and factual defenses, and negotiating with prosecutors and agency representatives to obtain favorable dispositions. In those cases that are not favorably resolved at the initial arraignment day, students conduct thorough legal research, crime scene investigation and witness interviews. Ongoing client counseling guides student efforts to identify and respond to the individualized interests of each client. This information meaningfully informs the conduct of clinic litigation, which ranges from traditional tasks like the drafting discovery motions, subpoenas, and pretrial motions, to more holistic measures including helping clients avoid the collateral consequences of a criminal record. To advance their clients’ interests, students conduct extensive negotiations, engage in proffer sessions, and draft plea agreements. Cases not settled are taken to formal court hearings and bench trials before federal Magistrate Judges with students handling all aspects of the litigation, including motion practice, witness preparations, direct and cross-examinations, opening and closing statements, and legal arguments.

In addition to their misdemeanor cases, clinic students work on federal felony cases through the clinic's affiliation with the Federal Defenders of New York. Students will work directly with experienced Federal Defenders in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York to help them defend federal felony cases. Research and preparation for sentencing will be a focus of the 2015-16 clinic felony fieldwork.


The seminar meets two evenings per week for a total of four hours. The seminar involves critical examination and discussion of the criminal justice system based on the students' experiences and observations. After a discussion of interviewing and negotiating strategies and techniques during our early Fall semester “boot camp,” students conduct mock client interviews and negotiating sessions to prepare for arraignment day. The remainder of the fall semester is spent discussing the operative components of federal criminal practice including investigations, discovery, subpoenas, client-centered counseling, plea bargaining, motion practice, and other litigation techniques. Students draft case analysis memoranda, discovery requests, motion papers, and negotiation letters. The spring semester focuses on trial strategies as some cases may head to hearings and trials. During the school year, students will engage in a full simulated suppression hearing, and a full simulated trial. Interwoven throughout the year are discussions of the ethical and systemic issues facing public defenders.

Qualifications for Applicants

Second-year and third-year students are eligible to take this clinic. Criminal Procedure, Evidence or a trial advocacy or litigation course is required as a prerequisite. If students have not taken any of these courses, they are expected to take one concurrently with the clinic; Criminal Procedure is the recommended course in that instance.

Credits and Hours

The FDC is a year-long, 14-credit, clinic. We will award three clinical credits and four academic seminar credits each semester.

Particular Scheduling Requirements

In addition to the evening seminar hours, FDC students will be required to attend approximately five court intake days per semester. Accordingly, students will need to be available on Tuesdays between 9 AM and 1:30 PM and may not schedule other classes at that time.

Application Procedure

Applicants should submit a resume, unofficial transcript, and application using CAMS, the online application system. After submitting their applications, students should sign up for an interview slot through CAMS. If you have any questions, please contact Michael D'Amelio at (212) 998-6635 or via email.

Student Contacts

Students are strongly encouraged to speak with current members of the clinic:

Rupita Chakraborty
Stephani Damon-Moore
Tristen Edwards
Heather Han
Jacob Hansen
Anna Matejcek

Emily New
Vivian Pitchik
Roee Shalev
Amaresh Srikanthan
Morgan Taggart-Hampton
April Yates

Interested applicants may also contact the adjunct professor Christopher Flood via email or adjunct professor Amanda David via email.

* 14 credits include 3 clinical credits and 4 academic seminar credits each semester.

** If students have not taken any of these courses, they are expected to take one concurrently with the clinic; Criminal Procedure is the recommended course in that instance.