Federal Defender Clinic
Professor David Klem
Professor Justine Harris
Open to 3L and 2L students
Maximum of 12 students
Prerequisites: Criminal Procedure, Evidence or a trial advocacy or litigation course**
Students in the Federal Defender Clinic (FDC) represent indigent defendants charged with misdemeanor offenses, such as drug possession, simple assault, weapons possession, and petty theft, in Federal Magistrate Court, Eastern District of New York. Under the liberal student practice rule for the Eastern District of New York, students work on cases from initial appearance through final disposition, including pleas, hearings, trials, and sentences.
The focus of the FDC is on live-client representation and litigation. While under faculty supervision, students fulfill every role of the lawyer, including speaking on behalf of clients at all appearances, making opening and closing arguments, cross-examining government witnesses, and other aspects of in-court hearings and trials. Students work in teams on most cases.
Fieldwork includes attending court on arraignment days, interviewing and counseling clients, investigating factual matters, researching legal and factual defenses, and negotiating with prosecutors and agency representatives to obtain favorable dispositions. Much more extensive fieldwork is undertaken in cases not disposed of at the initial arraignment day, including full case analysis and legal research, crime scene investigation and interviewing of witnesses, further client interviewing and counseling, and drafting discovery motions, subpoenas, and pretrial motions. Students then 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 cases, including motion practice, witness preparations, direct and cross-examinations, opening and closing statements, and legal arguments.
In addition to their misdemeanor cases, FDC students will work on 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.
The seminar meets once a week for two hours. Seminar topics track the progress of the misdemeanor cases and focus on the issues that arise in those cases. After a discussion of interviewing and negotiating strategies and techniques, students conduct mock client interviews and negotiating sessions to prepare for arraignment day. The remainder of the fall semester is spent discussing legal analysis, investigations, discovery, subpoenas, client-centered counseling, plea bargaining, and motion practice. Students draft case analysis memoranda, discovery requests, motion papers, and negotiation letters. The spring semester focuses on trial strategies and techniques as the remaining cases head to hearings and trials. Simulations are derived from the actual cases and are used throughout the semester to prepare for formal court proceedings. Interwoven into the seminar are discussions of the ethical and systemic issues facing public defenders. The seminar concludes with a critical examination and discussion of the criminal justice system based on the students' experiences and observations.
Qualifications for Applicants
Both second 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, ten-credit, clinic. We will award three clinical credits and two academic seminar credits each semester.
Applicants should submit a resume, unofficial transcript, and application using CAMS, the online application system. Students will be contacted by Michelle Williams after their applications are submitted to arrange individual interviews with the professors. If you have any questions, please contact Ms. Williams at (212) 998-6439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students are strongly encouraged to speak with current or former members of the clinic. The following students are currently enrolled in the clinic, or are 3Ls who took the clinic as 2Ls:
Ian Marcus Amelkin
|Interested applicants may also contact either of the adjunct professors. David Klem, senior appellate counsel at the Center for Appellate Litigation, can be reached at email@example.com or (212) 577-2523 ext. 43.|
* 10 credits includes 3 clinical credits and 2 academic seminar credits each semester.
** If students have not taken any of those courses, they are expected to take one concurrently with the clinic; Criminal Procedure is the recommended course in that instance.