Clinical Programs - US Attorneys Office

US Attorneys Office

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York sponsors a clinic for Cornell law students at its office in Syracuse, New York. Students assist in federal criminal prosecutions and the defense of federal agencies and employees in civil cases.

United States Attorneys

United States Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. There are 93 United States Attorneys stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. United States Attorneys are appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. Each United States Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement of the United States within his or her particular jurisdiction. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York is Richard S. Hartunian.

United States Attorney For The Northern District of New York

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York is a medium sized governmental office, covering 32 counties in upstate New York. The office in Syracuse has approximately 20 attorneys. The United States Attorney’s Office has three divisions:

  • Criminal Division: prosecutes federal crimes involving terrorism, drugs, firearms, environmental crimes, child pornography, interstate domestic violence, bank robberies, smuggling, organized crime, white collar crime, frauds and swindles.
  • Civil Division: represents federal agencies and employees in tort claims, medical malpractice, employment discrimination, federal constitutional torts, bankruptcy, civil prosecutions under the False Claims Act, and general civil litigation.
  • Appellate Division: prosecutes both criminal and civil appeals.

Law Students

The United States Attorney hires 8-9 Cornell law students each semester (fall and spring) in the Syracuse office. Each student is assigned to one Assistant United States Attorney, to perform legal assistance as needed. Each student performs the following.


  • Work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Syracuse 8 hours per week.
  • Work a total of 12-15 hours per week (remaining hours are worked at Cornell).
  • Perform legal research and writing, observe motions and trials, participate in trial preparation and witness debriefings, appellate moot courts, observe appellate arguments, give oral arguments in U.S. District Court under the supervision of Assistant U.S. Attorneys as permitted by Local Rules.

Sample assignments

  • Prepare a research memorandum regarding the level of intent required to bring a civil prosecution against a defense contractor who submitted false claims to the United States.
  • Draft issues on appeal for an environmental prosecution involving asbestos removal, following a trial which lasted for five months.
  • Provide general trial assistance to a federal prosecutor during a RICO prosecution of a street gang in Syracuse, working with federal, state and local police agencies.
  • Draft a memorandum in support of a motion for summary judgment, in an employment case alleging retaliation, to be submitted to the U.S. District Court in Syracuse.


  • Class is taught by Adjunct Professor and Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Roberts on Thursday evening at 6:05 p.m. at Cornell Law School.
  • Topics include terrorism, prosecutorial discretion, interstate domestic violence, child pornography, oral arguments, federal civil practice, and appellate practice.
  • Lectures are given by Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberts. Guest speakers include judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, officials of the U.S. Department of Justice, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, and FBI agents.
  • Students go on a tour of Auburn Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Auburn, New York.
  • Grading is mandatory pass-fail.


Preferred qualifications include superior academic achievement, academic journals, judicial clerkships, paralegal experience, work in law firms, and demonstrated ability with legal research, writing and analysis.

Background check

Students must pass a background check before they can begin working. Common issues that arise are as follows:

  • Citizenship: Students must be U.S. citizens or owe permanent allegiance to the United States (natives of American Samoa).
  • Drug use: Any type of illegal drug use within 12 months of completing the background check paperwork is an automatic disqualification. Admitted drug use outside this 12-month period will require a letter of explanation describing the events surrounding the drug use.
  • Credit history: All outstanding credit problems must be resolved before work can begin. A history of serious credit problems may be grounds for disqualification.
  • Employment history: Students must submit a written explanation if they have been fired from a previous job, or quit after having been told that they would be fired or left a job by mutual agreement because of specific problems.
  • Criminal history: Students must submit a written explanation if they have been charged, convicted, imprisoned, or been on probation or parole for any offense.


  • Students are hired for the fall semester, and separately for the spring semester.
  • Fall semester students have a preference in hiring for the spring.
  • Interviews are conducted in March at Cornell Law School, for the next fall semester.
  • Interviews are conducted in late September at Cornell Law School, for the next spring semester.
  • Interviews are announced by Administrative Assistant Jack Glezen.

Interested students should submit a resume, a writing sample, and list of references to Mr. Jack Glezen.