Domestic Violence Prosecution Externship
Scott Kessler, Lecturer-in-Law (2 ungraded academic and 2 ungraded clinical credits)
This externship is a one-semester course in which students are able to work as assistant district attorneys and act as the lead prosecutor of misdemeanor domestic violence cases from case inception though to trial. Third-year students chosen for the program will work in the new Family Justice Center, a unique facility where the efforts of civil services providers for domestic violence victims are coordinated with those of law enforcement officials. Students will have their own designated work spaces at the District Attorney's Office located at the Family Justice Center and carry a caseload of about 15-20 cases. The seminar will prepare students for their field work and explore topics related to domestic violence prosecution. Scott Kessler, who has a national reputation for leading one of the finest domestic violence prosecution bureaus in the country, will teach the seminar and oversee the field placements. Grading for both the seminar and placement is pass/fail. Completion of this course will satisfy the pre-requisite requirement for the L9172 Advanced Trial Practice course.
The Domestic Violence Bureau offers a fieldwork opportunity, in which students are able to prosecute misdemeanor crimes on behalf of the State. Students will have the opportunity to apply law they learned in Criminal Law, Evidence, Criminal Adjudication and other classes. Operating under an Appellate Division special practice order, each student will be responsible for about 15 to 20 active domestic violence criminal cases. Students will get the opportunity to argue pre-trial motions and take their cases to trial in a first-chair capacity. Students also will subpoena relevant evidence, draft complaints, prepare discovery materials and negotiate pleas with defense counsel. They also will interview victims and meet with police, defense counsel and judges, fighting for the right solution to cases that are fraught with consequences for the victims, defendants and families. To the extent possible, matters of discretion (e.g. what to charge, what plea to offer, what evidence to subpoena) are left to the student's judgment. Thus, each student is forced to grapple with the tough decisions inherent to domestic violence prosecutions. Students will spend at least 12 hours per week working at the Bureau and appearing on their cases in Queens Criminal Court (located next to the E and F subway stop in Kew Gardens, Queens).
In light of students' high level of responsibility, Mr. Kessler will make sure that they receive attentive and accessible supervision at all times. Each student is assigned to a supervising ADA, with whom they will build a relationship over the course of a semester. In addition, the bureau chief/adjunct professor will be available to answer questions regarding procedure and logistics. Students will critically examine the ethical, strategic and justice implications of their work with their supervisors and Mr. Kessler. When the students cases go to trial if there is no disposition, the student performs the opening, all direct exams, all cross exams and sums in front of a judge or a jury. There is a supervisor as a second seat to assist during the trial but the case is assigned to the student. In the past, many of the students have completed misdemeanor trials to verdict.
The seminar will introduce students to all aspects of the prosecution function: from investigation and charging decisions, through arraignment, plea bargaining, discovery, motions, trial and appeal. Seminar topics include trial practice and strategies employed in cases where the victim refuses to cooperate. In light of the high rate with which victims cease their cooperation with prosecutors, students are equipped with the methods they need to develop a case without the victim's cooperation.
The seminar usually will meet on Monday from 6:20 to 8:10 p.m. at the Law School. The first few sessions may longer, so that students will be adequately prepared for their work at the Family Justice Center.
Only third-year students are eligible for the externship. To apply, please send a brief cover letter, resume and transcript to Scott Kessler ([email protected]) by Wednesday, Oct. 30th. Preference may be given to students who have or will be taking Evidence.