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Criminal Defense Clinic 2021 Highlights

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Sturm College of Law

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CDC students

Criminal Defense Student Attorneys (l-r) Anna Myra, Mackenzie Russell, Ryleigh Rudolph, and Abigail LeBrun support each other after appearing on behalf of their clients in Denver Municipal Court.

Criminal Defense Clinic 2021 Highlights

Students in Denver Law’s Criminal Defense Clinic (CDC) returned for in-person learning for the fall 2021 semester, vaccinated against COVID-19, masked, and eager to hone their defense lawyering skills. CDC student attorneys practice under the supervision of Associate Professor Lindsey Webb and Clinical Teaching Fellow Sara Hildebrand.

In academic year 2020-2021, the CDC was entirely virtual, except when court hearings, client meetings, and investigation required in-person work. CDC students remained engaged and committed despite these challenges, with student teams conducting complex motions hearings and two jury trials almost as soon as courtrooms re-opened. In fall 2021, back in person, CDC students began the semester with an intensive, three-week-long orientation during which they engaged in a simulated client representation that afforded them opportunities to practice motions drafting, investigation, client interviewing and counseling, negotiation, and courtroom skills commonly employed in a criminal defense practice. After orientation completion, student attorney teams of two were off to the races, advocating for low-income clients accused of municipal ordinance violations in Denver General Sessions, Aurora Municipal Court, and Lakewood Municipal Court. In addition, one team represents a juvenile client in a juvenile court, and another team represents a client in a post-conviction matter in which they endeavor to have the court discontinue a collateral consequence that has adversely affected their client’s life for years.

he unprecedented circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to require clients’ and students’ flexibility, patience, and adherence to safety precautions. Already this semester, CDC student attorneys have developed trusting relationships with their clients through their commitment to client-centered representation, communication, and creative thinking. They have collaborated with student attorneys from DU’s civil litigation clinic; collected records; written, filed and litigated discovery motions; conducted thorough interviews and other investigation; written and filed constitutional motions; appeared in court; and set cases for jury trials. No matter the context, DU’s student defenders work from a client-centered place to resist dehumanizing forces in the criminal system through their use of fact-rich narrative.

CDC student attorneys also enjoy the support of their student attorney colleagues in the law school’s Immigration Law and Policy Clinic (ILPC), now in its fourth year at the Sturm College of Law. If a CDC client has immigration concerns, their student attorneys can consult with their colleagues in the ILPC to be sure they thoroughly advise the client about potential immigration consequences related to their criminal case.

As Denver Law’s student attorneys work tirelessly for their clients, the Denver Law community and many others across the country mourn the loss of Professor Christopher N. Lasch, who passed away in June 2021 after a period of illness. Chris and Robin Walker Sterling, now the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Clinical Education, and Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University’s Pritzker College of Law, spearheaded the current iteration of the CDC curriculum and four years ago co-founded DUs Immigration Law and Policy Clinic. At the time of his passing, Chris served as the Ronald V. Yegge Clinical Co-director for DU’s Clinical Program. Chris was immensely kind and generous, hilariously witty, a brilliant academic and extraordinary impactful scholar, and a fierce advocate for clients and social justice in many forms. With his non-directive and endlessly thoughtful pedagogy, he taught and empowered many students to become creative, confident, and fearless attorneys and agents for social change. While Chris no longer walks the halls of DU’s student law office, those who do endeavor to honor an important piece of his legacy, his unwavering belief in the good to be found in others.

CDC Faculty Highlights

Associate Professor Lindsey Webb

Recent Publications

Clinical Teaching Fellow Sara Hildebrand

Recent Publications

  • Racialized Implications of Officer Gang Expert Testimony, 91 Miss. L. J. (forthcoming 2022).
  • Reviving the Presumption of Youth Innocence Through a Presumption of Release: A Legislative Framework for Abolition of Juvenile Pretrial Detention, 125 Penn St. L. Rev. 695 (2021).
  • The Burden of Time: Government Negligence in Pandemic Planning as a Catalyst to Reinvigorating the Sixth Amendment Speedy Trial Right, 63 Vill. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022).