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Criminal Justice Clinic

Criminal Justice Clinic students work as agents for criminal justice reform in Louisiana. Students are taught multidimensional advocacy through litigation, legislation, community outreach and systemic advocacy. 

Students in the Criminal Justice Clinic pose in front the Louisiana Supreme Court

Clinic cases have generated important innovations and precedents. Although the clinic focuses on representing criminal defendants at every stage of the litigation process, students are also challenged to consider how client advocacy allows, and perhaps even requires, work outside of the courts.

Representing Louisiana’s most vulnerable defendants at all stages of their criminal cases – investigation, pre-trial motions, trial, appeal, state post-conviction, and federal habeas – Clinic students have opportunities to brief and argue cases in appellate courts including the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Federal District Court, and the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Students are guided by Senior Professor of the Practice and Director, Katherine Mattes, who has taught in Tulane’s Criminal Justice Clinic since 2002. Mattes is a leading voice in efforts to reshape the criminal justice system in a state that until recently held the highest incarceration rate in the country.

Former assistant district attorney, veteran criminal defense lawyer, and part-time Clinical Instructor, Sheila Myers, has also supervised students in a range of matters since 2001.

“I think client interaction is probably my favorite part of being in the clinic. Especially with clients who are incarcerated, going to visit them and spend time with them and getting to know their families, it rejuvenates you and makes you feel more committed to the work.” Drew Lafontant, (L’18), Staff Attorney, Orleans Public Defender

A Network of Holistic Legal Practitioners: The Criminal Justice Clinic Legacy

Former clinic students have gone on to distinguish 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
  • Director, Innocence Project New Orleans
  • Attorney, Louisiana Center for Children's Rights
  • Assistant Public Defender, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Partner, Jones Walker
  • Clinical Instructor, Tulane Law School Domestic Violence Clinic
  • Federal Public Defender, San Diego, California 

“The criminal justice clinic was both the most challenging and supportive learning environment that I experienced during my time at Tulane Law. Gaining courtroom experience and legal writing guidance for complex criminal litigation was invaluable as a (hopeful) future criminal law practitioner!  The sense of professional responsibility that student attorneys in the clinic have is unlike anything that I experienced during my time as a summer associate/clerk.  Katherine and Sheila are some of the finest educators on campus, and working alongside them made every student clinician a better attorney.” Garrison Boyd (L’18), Criminal Justice Clinic