Students in the Criminal Defense Clinic try cases in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Philadelphia Municipal Court under the close supervision of a senior trial attorney from the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
- Students first receive an intensive introduction to trial techniques, Pennsylvania criminal law, procedure and evidence. During this period students are also assigned mock cases to help prepare them before their first court appearance, in addition to observing actual preliminary arraignments, preliminary hearings, and trials.
- Students are then assigned to represent defendants, under close supervision. They interview and counsel clients, develop case theories, negotiate with opposing parties, prepare pretrial motions, and conduct misdemeanor trials and preliminary hearings for felony cases. Students have the opportunity to interact with their clients, members of the judiciary, District Attorneys, witnesses and complainants.
- Throughout, students attend seminars where they explore selected facets of defense work, lawyering skills and the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. They also thoughtfully examine the relationship between race, poverty and the criminal justice system.
During their time in the Clinic, students have helped clients assert their constitutional rights and avoid incarceration and other harmful outcomes. They have also built skills for future careers, including careers other than public defense. Criminal Defense Clinic alumni have gone on to clerk for judges, work in the private sector, and more.
Read about past Criminal Defense Clinic students’ victories in court and plans for the future:
For students interested in participating in the Criminal Defense Clinic, read about what you’ll learn, registration information, and prerequisites.