Criminal Appeals Externship
Carl S. Kaplan and Mark Zeno, Lecturers-in-Law (2 ungraded academic credits, 2 ungraded clinical credits, and 1 minor writing credit, which must be registered separately with the Registrar)
The Criminal Appeals Externship at CLS offers students a hands-on opportunity to learn criminal law and appellate advocacy while gaining practical experience drafting a brief on behalf of an indigent defendant in a New York State appellate court proceeding. The externship consists of a seminar component and a field component. The classroom seminar meets weekly and focuses on key aspects of appellate practice and New York criminal law, as well as techniques of brief writing and written and oral advocacy.
The Field Component
Each student will help represent a criminal defendant appealing his or her felony conviction to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department. The course will be conducted with Carl S. Kaplan and Mark Zeno, senior attorneys with the Center for Appellate Litigation (“CAL”). The field component will be at CAL, a public defender organization based in lower Manhattan that handles state court appeals for indigent defendants convicted of felonies in Manhattan and the Bronx. CAL, founded in 1997, engages in cutting-edge advocacy of defendant’s rights, often involving complex constitutional issues. Students not only gain critical experience in written advocacy, but have also experienced remarkable success on our clients’ behalves, obtaining sentence reductions, and new trials, and dismissals of convictions in recent semesters.
The two-hour seminar will meet weekly at Columbia Law School. Early seminar sessions will address areas of criminal law and procedure relevant to many New York criminal appeals, including the appellate process, the preservation doctrine, scope of review, harmless error, legal insufficiency, proof beyond a reasonable doubt and weight of the evidence. Later, as students begin to focus on their individual cases, sessions will address more practical skills, including how to digest an appellate record, how to identify and evaluate issues, how to develop a theory of the case, how to write a statement of facts and how to craft an effective legal argument. Seminar sessions will also explore the ethics of appellate advocacy, teach oral argument techniques and discuss effective client communications. Seminar sessions will consist of lectures, discussions, field trips to courts and in-class exercises.
For the supervised brief-writing part of the course, each student will read, digest and annotate the full appellate record (including motion papers and hearing, trial and sentence transcripts), research and select issues, write initial and final drafts of the opening appellate brief and correspond with clients. Students will meet individually with their assigned instructor every other week at the CAL office in lower Manhattan. Additional thinking/editing sessions will occur as needed either at Columbia or CAL. After the course ends, the instructors will submit the briefs to CAL for peer review and then file them with the court. Each student will be expected to devote at least 10 hours per week during the Fall Semester to his or her assigned appeal. At the discretion of the instructors, students may also draft a reply brief during the Spring Semester and/or orally argue their cases before a five-judge panel of the First Department.
Grading will be pass-fail.
Admission is by application and permission is required for registration. Third- and second-year students are welcome to apply, particularly those who are good writers and who have academic experience or demonstrable experience in criminal law and evidence. Preference will be given to third-year students. Six students will be accepted. Students interested in applying to the criminal appeals externship should submit:
- a resume
- an official or unofficial CLS transcript
- a legal writing sample of 5-15 pages (excerpts okay)
- an email explaining your interest in participating in the externship
Send all the documents to Carl S. Kaplan (email@example.com). The subject line should be “CLS externship app.” Alternatively, materials may be faxed to Carl Kaplan, Center for Appellate Litigation, at fax # 212.577.2535. The deadline is Thursday, April 7th. Applicants may be contacted for brief interviews.
Accepted externs must register for their minor writing credit separately with the Registrar.