Suffolk Defenders Program

This is a year-long criminal defense practice course available to final year law students. This clinic is offered for 10 credits (5 credits/ semester) and students will receive separate letter grades at the end of the year for the seminar component and the casework component. The clinic is open to day and evening students in their last year of law school (including Accelerated JD students). The Suffolk Defenders represent clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies in the Boston Municipal Court. The Defenders provide their clients representation in all phases of the court process, including arraignment, bail hearings, suppression and discovery hearings, pretrial conferences, trials, sentencing and occasionally post-conviction hearings. The program has a classroom component and a field work component. The class, which meets two hours per week, covers the multiple aspects of criminal representation, including the role of defense counsel, establishment of the attorney- client relationship, investigation of cases, ethical issues, negotiation, and trial preparation. Students develop trial skills through role playing exercises and mock motions against students in the Prosecutors program. Class also focuses on a critique of the criminal justice system, discussion of ongoing cases and reflection on your experience in that system.

The field work component involves the conscientious and thorough representation of clients. To prepare for such representation, students will, in addition to their classes, have weekly interviews and small section meetings with their supervisor. In these meetings, students develop theories and strategies for defending their cases. The Suffolk Defenders Program presents the motivated student with an opportunity for intense one-on-one supervision in a highly structured, real life environment.

You must be available at least one day per week (8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.), either Mondays or Tuesdays for duty days. After duty days, where we pick up our cases for the first time, often the 2nd date for both the Monday and Tuesday group has to be a Tuesday or a Thursday because of the Court’s schedule. Therefore having both Monday and Tuesday or Thursday available may be necessary. That obligation commences before the clinic starts accepting cases, beginning the first week of class. Every effort will be made to accommodate students’ preferences for a Monday or Tuesday, however, some students may have to arrange their academic schedule to accommodate their in-court day because the two “teams” need to be divided equally. On occasion, students will be required to appear in court on other days of the week, for emergencies, to accommodate the Court and for bail appeals to the Superior Court. In addition, you will be expected to spend significant time on case preparation, client meetings, investigation and meetings with your supervisor. In addition to the clinic-wide, one-day Orientation, the students accepted to the Defenders Clinic must also be available for an intensive four to five-day boot camp. Boot Camp will start either the week before classes commence, or the previous week, depending on the scheduled date of the clinic-wide orientation program and room availability. The precise dates will be provided in the spring when the clinic is chosen. During the course of the academic year, students will be responsible for accommodating the Court’s calendar and the needs of their clients. Therefore, there is a high likelihood that students will have to work on their cases during the exam period and/or during school vacations, and in some instances, be available to attend court during the same timeframes.

Evidence is a prerequisite, but co-enrollment in Evidence may be permitted for Accelerated JD Students. Preference will be given to those students who will have completed a trial practice course or the equivalent (e.g., Trial Team) before the start of the fall semester. If a student represents that s/he will take a Trial Advocacy during the summer semester and fails to do so, and if there are applicants on the wait list who will have completed a trial practice course, a qualifying student from the wait list will be selected to replace the student originally admitted. If clinic space remains for students who will not have completed a trial practice course before the start of the fall semester and any such students are accepted into the clinic, those students are required to register for trial practice in the fall semester. Concurrent enrollment in Trial Advocacy is option for Accelerated JD students.  If you have any questions, contact Professor Chris Dearborn.