Criminal Appeals Externship
Carl S. Kaplan and Mark Zeno, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic credits, 2 ungraded clinical credits, and Minor Writing Credit, which must be registered separately with Registration Services)
The Criminal Appeals Externship offers students a hands-on opportunity to sharpen their written and oral advocacy skills, while gaining practical experience drafting a brief on behalf of an indigent defendant in a New York State appellate proceeding. Although the context of the externship is New York criminal appeals, its overarching goal is to teach persuasive written advocacy; it should appeal to all students seeking to develop their advocacy skills, regardless of whether they plan a career in criminal law.
The externship consists of a seminar component and a field component. The weekly classroom seminar focuses on written advocacy, appellate practice, and New York criminal law. For the field component, each student will represent a criminal defendant appealing his or her felony conviction to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department or the Appellate Term, First Department.
The course is conducted by Carl S. Kaplan and Mark Zeno, senior attorneys with the Center for Appellate Litigation (“CAL”), a Manhattan public defender organization that handles state court appeals for indigent defendants convicted of offenses in Manhattan and the Bronx. The field component will be with CAL. CAL employs cutting-edge advocacy of defendant’s rights, often involving complex constitutional issues (http://www.appellate-litigation.org). Grading will be pass-fail.
The externship is not a simulation: Our externship-students’ advocacy has been remarkably successful, resulting in not only meaningful — and sometimes life-changing — relief for our clients, but also important advancements in New York criminal law and procedure, including:
- dismissals of felony convictions, see, e.g., People v. Velez, 110 A.D.3d 449 (1st Dep’t 2013)(suspicionless vehicle checkpoint stop that led to recovery of contraband violated Fourth Amendment); People v. Thomas, 87 A.D.3d 867 (1st Dep’t 2011)(assault convictions against the weight of the evidence);
- reversals, see, e.g., People v. Soto, 113 A.D.3d 153 (1st Dep’t 2013)(court erred by refusing to admit declaration against penal interest), affirmed, 26 N.Y.3d 455 (2015);
- sentence reductions, see, e.g., People v. Umstead, 134 A.D.3d 522 (1st Dep’t 2015)(vacating second-violent-felony-offender adjudication and six-year sentence); People
- People v. McLaughlin, 104 A.D.3d 615, 616 (1st Dep’t 2013)(vacating second-felony-offender adjudication and 16-year sentence); People v. Harris, 67 A.D.3d 612 (1st Dep’t 2008)(vacating persistent-felony-offender adjudication and 15-year-to-life sentence and replacing it with a second-felony-offender adjudication and a two-to-four-year sentence);
- discretionary review by the New York Court of Appeals, see, e.g., People v. Isma McGhee, 125
- A.D.3d 537 (1st Dep’t 2015), leave granted, 26 N.Y.3d 969 (2015); People v. Pacquette, 112 A.D.3d 405 (1st Dep’t 2013), affirmed, 25 N.Y.575 (2015); and
- fact finding hearings, see, e.g., People v. Chanlee, 120 A.D.3d 417 (1st Dep’t 2014)(remitting for hearing to determine whether warrantless forcible entry into defendant’s apartment was supported by exigent circumstances), reversing, _ A.D.3d _, 2015 WL 869409 (1st Dep’t Mar. 3, 2015)(dismissing conviction following evidentiary hearing).
The two-hour seminar meets weekly at the law school. Because it is effective brief writing that — above all else — wins appeals, the seminar’s ultimate goal and persistent theme will be to teach the techniques that will persuade judges to rule favorably for our clients. The seminar also provides the necessary legal context: Early seminar sessions address areas of criminal law and procedure relevant to New York criminal appeals, including the appellate process, the preservation doctrine, scope of review, harmless error, legal insufficiency, and weight-of-the-evidence review. As students begin to focus on their individual cases, sessions 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 also explore the ethics of appellate advocacy, teach oral argument techniques, and discuss effective client communications. Seminar sessions consist of lectures, discussions, court field trips, and in-class exercises.
For the supervised brief-writing part of the course, each student reads, digests and annotates the full appellate record (including motion papers and hearing, trial, and sentence transcripts), researches and selects issues, writes initial and final drafts of the opening appellate brief, and corresponds with clients. Students meet individually with their assigned instructor every other week or more often. Each student is expected to devote at least 10 hours per week during the Fall Semester to his or her assigned appeal. Students have the opportunity to visit their clients at a New York State Correctional Facility, if incarcerated. 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.
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.
To apply, please complete the Common Application when it is released. Dates to apply for Spring 2019, will be sometime in October, 2018. Please watch for informational sessions. Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].
Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.
Accepted externs must register for their Minor Writing Credit separately with Registration Services.