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Indigent Criminal Justice FAQ

What is the ICJP?

The Indigent Criminal Justice Practicum (ICJP) provides students with the opportunity to represent indigent criminal defendants accused of misdemeanor offenses in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas under the supervision of an attorney from the Centre County Public Defender Office. Students learn litigation, negotiation and advocacy skills as they represent defendants through all stages of a criminal case.

How does the Practicum operate?

Students enroll for a full academic year beginning in a fall semester. The practicum consists of both a classroom and in-court portion. Students will represent their clients at all court hearings, specifically preliminary hearings scheduled every Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. Each student must have transportation to Bellefonte, Pa. Additionally, each student must be available for any court hearing related to their cases i.e. habeas corpus, suppression, motions in limine hearings, pretrial conferences, jury selection, trials, guilty pleas, sentencing and post-sentence motions. Additional commitments include: Pretrial Conferences, Jury Selection, brief writing and submission as requested by the Court. Students will have access to the Centre County Public Defenders legal staff who will assist in the formatting and filing of any briefs so that they comply with all applicable Court requirements.

How many students may enroll each semester?

Ideally the practicum can accept up to three students per year.

Are there any prerequisites or co-requisites?

Student must have completed at least 43 semester credits overall and have successfully completed Professional Responsibility and Evidence.

How are students evaluated?

Evaluation will be based on the supervising attorney’s assessment of students’ achievement in tasks and assignments undertaken during the semester, effort and success in interacting with collaborators, class participation, and analytical and professional skills.

How can a member of the public become a client of the practicum?

Referrals to the practicum are made through the Centre County Public Defender Office and are designed to provide criminal defendants who cannot afford private counsel with highly effective representation that is client-centered, professional, and ethical. Individuals interested in practicum representation must contact the Centre County Public Defender Office.