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Criminal Prosecution Clinic: Clinical Coursework

Clinic students prosecute cases at the San Jose Superior Court under the guidance of Santa Clara County prosecutors. They formulate case strategy, identify and interview witnesses, and advocate before the court at evidentiary motions or preliminary hearings. The cases, almost always felonies, include drug offenses, thefts, burglaries, assaults, including domestic assaults, weapons possession, and a range of less common crimes. Police witnesses are most common, though students sometimes offer testimony from crime victims. When defendants testify or offer other witnesses, they face cross-examination by clinic students. Students spend at least three full days a week in the D.A.'s office. All six students must spend all day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on site. Each student also must choose a third on-site day that stays constant through the term. There generally will be two class sessions each week -- a three-hour on-campus class and a lunchtime seminar in the D.A.'s office. At the beginning of the term classes focus on skills training, including direct and cross-examination, admission of physical evidence, and argument. Toward the end of the term the focus shifts to an examination and critique of the local mechanisms of criminal justice. Topics include the impact of race, gender, and class on the quality of justice; the institutional strengths and weaknesses of the actors in the system; prison conditions and prison reform; and the ethical issues that confront prosecutors and defense lawyers. Students typically tour the Santa Clara County jail and crime lab, San Quentin Prison, and the Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton and have the option to spend an evening on a police ride-along. Students must submit regular written reflections on their experiences in and observations of the local justice system. Their assigned cases often will demand written court filings. During most weeks students will meet one-on-one with the faculty supervisor. Evidence is a prerequisite. In rare cases a concurrent clinic module in evidence can fulfill this requirement. Courses in criminal procedure (investigation) and trial advocacy are strongly encouraged. Class attendance is mandatory, and class participation will be considered in grading. Students will be asked to commit to the course in the summer of 2015; dropping the course after committing will not be permitted. Students will earn twelve credits. The clinical quarter begins the first day of classes and runs through the final day of exam period. Students should not plan personal travel during the Monday-to-Friday workweek without permission from on-site and faculty supervisors. Students are expected to be available by email or cell phone during workday hours Monday through Friday. Students are expected to devote at least thirty-five hours per week to various facets of this work. In some weeks casework may demand longer hours. Students will be awarded three separate grades, each reflecting four credits, for clinical practice, clinical methods, and clinical coursework. Grading is on the H/P system. Please also refer to special instructions for the general structure of clinical courses. Special Instructions: General Structure of Clinical Courses. The Law School's clinical courses are offered on a full-time basis for 12 credits. This format allows students to immerse themselves in the professional experience without the need to balance clinical projects with other classes, exams, and papers. Students enrolled in a clinic are not permitted to enroll in any other classes, seminars, directed research, or other credit-yielding activities within the Law School or University during the quarter in which they are enrolled in a clinic. Nor are they allowed to serve as teaching assistants who are expected to attend a class on a regular basis. There is a limited exception for joint degree students who are required to take specific courses each quarter and who would be foreclosed from ever taking a clinic unless allowed to co-register. These exceptions are approved on a case-by-case basis. The work during a typical week in a clinic is divided into three components. First, as they are for practicing attorneys, most of the hours of any week are taken up by work on client matters or case work (this time includes meetings with instructors to discuss the work). Again, as is the case for practicing lawyers, in some weeks these responsibilities demand time above and beyond normal business hours. Second, students will spend about five to seven hours per week preparing for and participating in weekly discussions or other group work in their individual clinic (scheduling varies by clinic). Third, over the course of the quarter each clinic student (with the exception of those enrolled in the Criminal Prosecution Clinic) is required to prepare for and attend about five inter-clinic group sessions. Enrollment in a clinic is binding; once selected into a clinic to which he or she has applied, a student may not later drop the course except in limited and exceptional cases. Requests for withdrawal are processed through the formal petition and clinical faculty review process described in the clinic policy document posted on the SLS website. Students may not enroll in any clinic (full-time or advanced) that would result in their earning more than 27 clinical credits during their law school career. The rules described here do not apply to advanced clinics for students who are continuing with a clinic in which they were previously enrolled. For information about advanced clinics, please see the course descriptions for those courses. For more general information about clinic enrollment and operations, please see the clinic policy document posted on the SLS website. Elements used in grading: Attendance, participation, writing assignments, case preparation, and courtroom presentations and advocacy.

2015-2016 Winter
01/04/2016 - 03/07/2016
Instructors: George Fisher

Instructors for this course (Past and Present)

George Fisher
Pat Sheeler