In the Criminal Defense Clinic, students represent indigent clients facing misdemeanor criminal charges in Franklin County Municipal Court. Students handle cases from arraignment through disposition: interviewing clients, conducting investigations, developing case strategies, negotiating with prosecutors, and appearing in court before judges and juries. Common misdemeanor offenses that the clinic handles include assault, domestic violence, falsification, obstruction of official business, resisting arrest, and possessory offenses.
To prepare for representing clients, students undergo rigorous training on conducting client interviews, negotiating with opposing counsel, and performing various trials skills such as conducting voir dire, cross-examining witnesses, and preparing and delivering opening and closing arguments. Throughout the semester, students work closely with their professor to hone their advocacy skills and achieve the best possible results for their clients.
In addition to their casework, students meet twice a week as a class to discuss broader issues of criminal justice and reflect on the real life-consequences of criminal justice policies on their clients. Class sessions provide opportunities for case rounds, discussions on reform and alternative approaches, and simulations designed to develop critical lawyering skills. Students also participate in various field trips, such as police ridealongs, jail tours, and courtroom observations, and reflect on these experiences in class.
While many students who participate in the clinic go on to work in criminal defense, others pursue work in prosecution offices, non-profit organizations, or private firms, and regularly find that the skills they acquire in the clinic are invaluable to any area of legal practice.