Students work in teams of two to draft an appellate brief on behalf of an indigent client convicted of a felony in Manhattan or the Bronx. The clinic’s two-hour weekly seminar supports the brief-writing process by focusing on persuasive writing skills, appellate oral argument, and the basics of appellate practice and doctrine as well as New York State criminal law. The seminar covers relevant substantive and procedural issues related to the clinic’s cases, and also addresses issues such as client communication, ethical and professional norms governing public defense work, and the roles that power and race play in mass incarceration. Students also meet weekly with the professor and a supervising attorney at the Center for Appellate Litigation, the clinic’s partner appellate public defense office. These weekly meetings provide individually tailored support for students during the brief-writing process. Throughout the semester, students communicate regularly with their clients by letter or telephone, and, where feasible, can visit their incarcerated clients in person. Once students have finalized drafts of their briefs, the clinic focuses on oral advocacy. Each student moots their case in front of a panel of appellate defense attorneys, and, with permission of the instructor, have the option of orally arguing their case before a five-judge panel in the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan.
In the course of this clinic, students acquire valuable transferrable skills, including the ability to:
- communicate with clients in an effective and ethical way
- identify and use the facts of a case to tell a compelling narrative
- write persuasive and well-organized arguments that successfully integrate the facts and relevant legal authorities
- deploy effective oral advocacy in both formal and informal settings
- understand appellate procedure and doctrine
- analyze the complexities and injustices in the U.S. criminal legal system
- collaborate productively with colleagues and supervising attorneys
- practice self-reflection to support professional-identity formation
While not required, the clinic especially welcomes students who have an interest in criminal law and in public defense, and those from historically underrepresented groups and affected communities. For information on application requirements, see the course catalog. Please contact Professor Goldberg with any questions about this course.