The Criminal Clinic is divided into two programs: the Trial Clinic and the Appellate Clinic. Both are year-long, ten credit offerings in which law students represent indigent criminal defendants in the Connecticut state courts under the supervision of the Clinic's two full-time professors. Typically third year students take the Trial Clinic. Second year students more typically enroll in the Appellate Clinic. Criminal Procedure and Evidence are pre- or co-requisites for the Criminal Clinics (see the appropriate clinic description below for specific details).
Students are given as much responsibility in a Criminal Clinic client's case as the supervising professor believes the student can handle, consistent with the clinic's commitment to the highest standards of criminal defense. Our goal is to train student attorneys so thoroughly in the animating principles of defense lawyering that the student attorney will ultimately be able to spearhead his or her casework, not merely follow a supervisor's lead. To attain that goal, the programs begin with a thorough steeping in the "first principles" of constitutional criminal law and procedure, the Connecticut Penal Code and Connecticut rules of criminal procedure, and the demanding ethics of defense lawyering. While training continues throughout the school year (class seminars, simulations, video exercises, mock trials, etc.), the field work component of the clinic experience is the "hub" of the clinical experience. Some students are likely to be assigned case responsibilities early in the fall semester, others later in the semester, in the discretion of the supervising professors.
We strongly recommend that those considering enrollment in one of the Criminal Clinic programs speak with a student currently enrolled or to one of our nearly 400 alumni. The Clinic's Office Administrator has a contact list of current clinic students and clinic alumni.
The Criminal Clinics develop a student's technical professional competence in the criminal law so that our student attorneys can practice in the clinic consistent with the highest standards of criminal defense and so that our students attorneys can reflect on and maximize their learning from their professional experiences in the clinic. Our clients' cases "bring alive," and thereby confront student attorneys, with the myriad legal, social, economic and political issues that are omnipresent in the practice of criminal law: the potentiality for defining and doing justice in the criminal justice system; the obstacles to doing justice in the criminal justice process; the system's treatment of individual persons (defendants, complainants, witnesses, etc.); the cultural and communicative links and gulfs between lawyers and clients–particularly indigent clients; a lawyer's sometimes conflictive duties to his client and to others (the Bar, the Courts, society, to the lawyer's own values); and the need for decision-making that is timely, competent, ethical, legal and true to a client's interests/goals.
In 2003, the Criminal Clinic was recognized with the Champion of Liberty Award from the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association in recognition of training criminal defense lawyers for more than 30 years. In 1999, the Clinic was recognized with the Pro Bono Award from the Hartford County Bar Association for "outstanding community service in the provision of free legal service to needy citizens of Hartford County."
If you have questions or comments about the Criminal Trial Clinic, please do not hesitate to call, write or e-mail us.
65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105-2290
Tel. 860-570-5165 Fax 860-570-5195
A detailed classroom study of Connecticut and federal appellate law and practice, with special emphasis on the processing of criminal appeals and writs of habeas corpus, the practice and perfection of appellate research, brief writing and advocacy skills. The Clinic represents indigent clients on direct appeal from conviction and in habeas corpus actions. Most appeals are to the Connecticut Supreme and Appellate Courts, while our habeas work brings us to the United States District Court of Connecticut and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Student representation includes presenting oral argument in state or federal court. Pre- or Co-requisites: Criminal Procedure and Evidence.
The Criminal Clinic has handled more than seventy appeals to the Connecticut Supreme and Appellate Courts over the last two decades. The Clinic has also handled assorted other post-conviction matters, such as pardon and parole applications, sentence modification and sentence review case, etc. A small sample of post-conviction cases handled by the Criminal Clinic:
State v. Sam, 98 Conn. App. 13 (2006)
On October 10, 2006 the Connecticut Appellate Court upheld a right to counsel claim made by the criminal clinic in a case on which students co-wrote the defendant's briefs and which a student, Emily Dean '06, argued in late May. The Appellate Court reversed the defendant's six felony convictions and ordered a new trial.
Johnson v. Commissioner, 258 Conn. 804 (2002)
Appellate Clinic student co-wrote Connecticut Supreme Court brief and then presented oral argument in support of lower court's judgment in our client's favor (won by two other Clinic students the previous year). Client was a prisoner who challenged a new parole eligibility law. Under new parole law, petitioner (and over 800 other Connecticut inmates) were required to serve an extra 35% of their sentences before being parole eligible. At the habeas corpus trial the Trial Clinic prevailed on constitutional grounds (violation of ex post facto prohibition). On appeal the Supreme Court affirmed on statutory grounds.
Beasley (& Narducci) v. Commissioner, 50 Conn. App. 421 (1998), aff'd, 249 Conn. 499 (1999)
Appeal from denial of habeas corpus actions brought by two inmates deprived of opportunity to earn statutory good time reductions in their sentences because they were transferred to Connecticut's supermaximum security prison, Northern Correctional, and placed in administrative segregation for a minimum of one year. Case was tried by clinic students at trial level. Appellate Court and Supreme Court both rejected constitutional and statutory challenges to administrative policy excluding inmates at Northern from earning good time.
State v. Wilkins, 240 Conn. 489 (1997)
Search and Seizure case argued before Connecticut Supreme Court by student attorney. Raised state constitutional issue: whether police may search a car for weapons when its driver and passenger have been removed, personally frisked, and the police intend to give them a traffic summons and release them if no weapons are found.
State v. Linares, 232 Conn. 345 (1995)
Client prosecuted under never-before-used statute, interfering with the legislative process, for chanting "Gay rights, lesbian rights," during Governor O'Neill's last state of the state address. Client challenged statute's constitutionality facially and as it applied to her. Client pled nolo contendere conditional on right to pursue appeal of free speech issues. Supreme Court held that Connecticut Constitution is more speech protective than first amendment but upheld constitutionality of statute.
State v. Hammond, 221 Conn. 264 (1992)
Won remand to the trial court for reconsideration of defendant's motion for new trial/post-trial discovery based on DNA profiling and blood testing in sexual assault/kidnapping case. Argued by student attorney. (On remand the trial court vacated the convictions and ordered new trial.)
Phillips v. Warden, 220 Conn. 112 (1991)
Writ of habeas corpus claiming ineffective assistance of counsel: trial counsel had conflict of interest where counsel, himself convicted of murder in a notorious court case, continued to practice law while taking appeal and represented petitioner at trial without taking any precautions to ensure that jurors did not hold lawyer's conviction against his client. Habeas case originally tried in Superior Court by student attorneys; students co-wrote appellate briefs and participated in oral argument before Connecticut Appellate and Supreme Courts. Connecticut Supreme Court ultimately ruled for petitioner and ordered new trial.
Students and Clinic staff handle criminal and related cases for indigent criminal defendants at the trial level in state courts and, on occasion, in federal courts. Students have primary responsibility for conducting an appropriate investigation, doing legal research, preparing pleadings, and setting an agenda for each court appearance at every stage of the case, including bond argument, arraignment, pretrial discussions, coordinating diversionary programs, arguing pretrial motions, trial, and sentencing. Students represent clients in felony and misdemeanor cases. We have also represented victims and witnesses involved in the criminal justice process. Prerequisites: Criminal Procedure and Evidence.
A small sample of the kinds of cases handled by the Trial Division:
State v. S.L.
Our client was a 21 year old mother with a two year old baby. The father of the baby was an underage school mate of the client at the time of conception. Three years after alleged criminal act, State charged client with sexual assault in the second degree (statutory rape), which carries mandatory 9 month prison sentence and which would also have required that client register and appear on an Internet web-site for ten years as a Sex Offender under Connecticut's "Megan's Law". Clinic negotiated with prosecutor for reduction of charge to misdemeanor to avoid mandatory jail time, then filed numerous pleadings, including a motion challenging Megan's law's constitutionality as applied to client and a motion for the court to recognize the child as a "victim" under state law and to appoint a lawyer to represent child's interests (in having mother not subject to Sex Offender registration). Court recognized child as "victim" and permitted a guardian ad litem to appear to represent child's interests. The Court later issued an order that the state may not require the client to comply with either the community notification or the registration requirements of Megan's Law. On the misdemeanor charge, client received suspended sentence and a short period of "conditional discharge" (similar to unsupervised probation).
State v. C.L.
Our client was an 18 year old high school student charged with a felony for stabbing another teenager in the back during a street brawl. Although the victim's injuries were not life-threatening, both the prosecutor and judge expressed views at the outset that the crime was too serious for resolution through a form of pretrial probation, called accelerated rehabilitation, that, once completed, results in the defendant having a clean record. After extensive investigation of the numerous eyewitnesses in the case and protracted and intense negotiations with the prosecutor, the charges were reduced and client was ultimately given accelerated rehabilitation.
State v. John Doe
In the middle of a first degree sexual assault trial, the defendant's attorney contacted the Criminal Clinic and we agreed to file a "motion in limine" and supporting memorandum of law on the defendant's behalf asking that the trial judge bar the state from using the defendant's arson conviction last year for impeachment purposes when the defendant testified in his defense. Connecticut evidence law makes such a felony conviction presumptively admissible for impeachment purposes. Working on extremely short notice, three student attorneys researched and drafted a lengthy memorandum setting forth multiple grounds for barring impeachment and one of the students presented oral argument to the court–which granted the motion in limine for the defense. The defendant testified and was later acquitted by the jury.
Johnson v. Commissioner of Correction, New London Superior Court
Criminal Clinic prevailed in habeas corpus action on behalf of prisoner by showing that a 1996 parole eligibility law violates the ex post facto prohibition in the federal constitution. Testimony established that the petitioner and over 800 other Connecticut inmates in like circumstances (in prison for offense committed before effective date of new parole law) must under the law serve an extra 35% of their sentences before becoming parole eligible. The Attorney General appealed. Two Trial Division students represented petitioner at his habeas trial. After an appellate clinic student argued the case on appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in our client's favor. Johnson v. Commissioner, 258 Conn. 804 (2002).
Beasley and Narducci v. Commissioner of Correction
Seven day trial in 1997. Two inmates at Connecticut's "supermax" facility, Northern Correctional Institution, made multiple statutory and constitutional challenges to an administrative directive that denies inmates confined in that institution the opportunity to earn statutory "good time" reductions in their actual term of incarceration. Student co-tried case and two students appeared in the cases on appeal. Beasley v. Commissioner, 50 Conn. App. 421 (1998), aff'd, 249 Conn. 499 (1999).
State v. Copas
Four month murder trial in Rockville Superior Court. Four legal interns acted as co-counsel with a Clinic attorney and the Public Defender. Students had active involvement in pretrial motions practice and hearings, jury selection, developing trial strategies, performing investigations, client counseling, etc.
State v. S & C
Clients ran underground needle exchange program in Willimantic to combat spread of AIDS through sharing of needles by IV drug users. Common law necessity defense raised; efforts included joining in successful lobbying effort to have legislature de-criminalize possession of hypodermic needles.
State v. R.G., Hartford Superior Court
Client charged with first degree larceny for AFDC, TFA, and Food Stamp Fraud of over $10,000 in benefits. After investigation, the Clinic prevailed on prosecutor to reduce charge to third degree larceny, making client eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitation ("AR"). Negotiated terms of AR to reduce restitution sum to $4,000, with further reduction of that figure by set-off for sums that the Department of Social Services was already administratively recouping by reducing client's current benefits. Client in the end paid less than $2,000 in out-of-pocket restitution. The prosecution was dismissed in September, 2000.
In re T.G.
The Clinic successfully procured a pardon for a woman originally from Eritrea who had three convictions for shoplifting stemming from the period ten years ago when she was still making the radical shift from life in that impoverished, war-ravaged country to life in the U.S.A. An unexpected opportunity to meet an individual who could educate her attorneys on the Ethiopia/Eritrean struggles of the last two decades. As a rule, we take pardons cases very infrequently. In this instance the client found us and hearing her story was enough to overcome our policy.