Through Tulane's Criminal Law Clinic, third-year law students represent indigent defendants charged with felonies and misdemeanors in the criminal district court. Clinic students also brief and argue appeals in the state appellate courts, including the Louisiana Supreme Court. The clinic also accepts appointments to represent indigent criminal defendants charged with federal crimes in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has appointed the clinic to brief and argue appeals and post-conviction applications. Some of these cases have involved the constitutionality and/or retroactive application of recently enacted legislation as well as allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel. At the trial court level, students investigate, prepare, and argue motions preparatory to trial on cases ranging from misdemeanor shoplifting to second degree murder. Accompanied by a supervising attorney, students take an active role in trial by conducting jury voir dire, making opening statements, conducting direct and cross-examination and giving closing arguments.
Clinic cases have generated important innovations and precedents. While experts are now routinely called to testify in such cases, the clinic was the first in Orleans Parish to use an expert witness to testify about domestic violence in defense of a battered woman charged with murder. Clinic students have been instrumental in expanding discovery between the prosecution and defense in criminal cases and also in persuading courts of the efficacy of setting pre-trial conferences for the resolution of evidentiary disputes prior to, rather than during, trial.
Subsequent to Hurricane Katrina, the Tulane Criminal Law Clinic has been integrally involved in the re-building of the Orleans Parish criminal justice system.
Former clinic students have gone on to distinguished themselves as prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, judges, law professors, and legislators in some of the most nation' prestigious law firms, government offices, public interest law practices and universities. Some examples of positions held by recent clinic students include:
Federal Judicial Law Clerk, Eastern District of Louisiana
Prettyman/Stiller Fellow, Georgetown Law Center
Assistant State's Attorney, Miami, Florida
Assistant District Attorney, Brooklyn, New York
Senior Professor of the Practice Katherine M. Mattes is director of the Criminal Law Clinic and is assisted by clinical instructor Sheila C. Myers.
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