Clinic - Capital Defender and Federal Habeas

Credits: 3.00
Faculty: Ursula Bentele

Prerequisites: Constitutional Law

Recommended: Advanced Criminal law: Capital punishment and Federal Habeas, Criminal Procedure II, Evidence

This clinic, available to second, third, and fourth year students, provides students with the opportunity to participate in the post conviction representation of death row inmates in other states and defendants in New York who have filed federal habeas corpus petitions. The post conviction work for defendants under sentence of death consists of filing petitions for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. Preparation of cert. petitions involves careful reading and digesting of a trial record, research of the legal issues raised by that record and presented to the state appellate court, evaluation of the strength of each possible claim, and writing several drafts of the petition. Students monitor closely the current Supreme Court docket and begin to learn some of the strategies involved in constitutional litigation. Most students attend at least one Supreme Court argument in a case raising issues relevant to the clinic.

The work on federal habeas petitions generally begins with the selection of cases, unless ongoing clinic cases require additional work. Students review several pro se petitions filed by inmates in the Eastern District of New York in order to choose cases that might benefit from representation by the clinic. For this task, students must first become familiar with the standards for granting a federal writ, standards which are complex and ever more restrictive. Once the cases have been selected, students review the record, research the issues, correspond with the client, including visiting him or her in prison, and prepare a supplemental memorandum to be submitted to the court. In cases requiring further fact investigation regarding the underlying conviction, students prepare discovery motions and take depositions where appropriate. If the court grants an evidentiary hearing, students will conduct the necessary examinations. If relief is denied in the district court, students may file a brief and argue the appeal in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Seminar Credits: 2.00

Seminar: The clinic includes a weekly seminar in the fall and a bi-weekly seminar in the spring.

Enrollment Notes: This is a one-semester clinic. In 2012-13, it is being offered only the spring 2013 semester.