Constitutional Rights in Life and Death Penalty Cases - Fall Only
George Kendall, Corrine Irish, and Jenay Nurse, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded fieldwork credits)
In this externship, students will explore how federal constitutional rights are enforced – or not enforced – in capital and life imprisonment cases. Students will learn the procedural and substantive legal doctrines applicable to obtaining relief from an unconstitutional conviction or sentence. Students will also be assigned to work within the unique public service practice group of a commercial law firm - the Squire Patton Boggs Public Service Initiative (PSI) - where they will work on behalf of indigent clients challenging death sentences or life imprisonment. PSI adopts a strategy of broad-based advocacy on behalf of their clients that can include individual and impact litigation, policy reform, and media advocacy. Students will learn a multi-dimensional approach to advocacy that may include providing legal, political, record-based, and/or media/social media research; conducting fact investigation and analysis; or assisting with trial/hearing prep. Through course work and fieldwork, students will gain an understanding of both the doctrinal and practical aspects of this important area of criminal constitutional law - often the subject of political attack - and students will also develop as advocates in challenging the harshest punishments in the country and the world.
George Kendall, who heads PSI, PSI attorneys Corrine Irish and Jenay Nurse, will jointly teach the course and supervise field work.
The weekly seminar will ordinarily meet at Squire's midtown offices in Rockefeller Center on Friday from 1:00pm-2:50 pm. Occasionally, the class may meet at Columbia Law School (for example when a guest speaker's presentation would be of interest to a large portion of the law school community). The weekly seminar will utilize court decisions, legislative activity, related research, and PSI case materials to explore how the enforcement of constitutional rights operates both in theory and in practice. The focus will be on understanding the constitutional rights implicated in the capital and serious criminal prosecutions and understanding how post-conviction doctrines facilitate or fail to facilitate their enforcement. Students will also develop advocacy skills through in-class exercises that engage students in the oral and written advocacy required of practicing attorneys and policymakers in this field.
Our litigation practice focuses primarily on capital and serious criminal cases in the Southeast. Fieldwork will be devoted to indigent PSI clients, or to counsel of record or amici supporting indigent petitioners before the Supreme Court. Students will be assigned to an attorney's case team in groups of two or three. While the exact nature of the work a particular student is involved in will vary depending on the particular needs of a case at the time, in the past, students have:
Assisted in jury selection research for death-penalty resentencing (We obtained reversal of original death sentence in the 11th Circuit, and the client was resentenced to life);
Conducted expert witness and fact witness preparation for Schlup innocence hearing in Virginia;
Assisted with expert witness preparation in state post-conviction hearing in death penalty case in Arkansas;
Assisted in preparations for oral arguments in the 5th Circuit for prisoner's rights case;
Prepared drafts of motions in state and federal court and petitions for certiorari in state and U.S. Supreme courts
Travel is possible for interested students, but not a requirement of the externship.
Requirements & Application Process
Students will receive four credits: two graded credits for the weekly seminar and two ungraded credits for fieldwork. Grades for the seminar will be based upon class participation, advocacy assignments, class presentations, and the quality and timeliness of written assignments. We recommend that students take Evidence, Criminal Procedure and/or Federal Courts prior to, or concurrently with, this course.
This externship is only offered in the Fall. The online application will be released in Spring 2020.
Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].