The Indigent Criminal Justice Practicum provides students with several opportunities to work in the criminal justice system within two different tracks.
The Trial Track involves representation of indigent criminal defendants accused of misdemeanor offenses in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas under the supervision of attorneys Gopal Balachandran and Richard Settgast. Students learn litigation, negotiation and advocacy skills as they represent defendants through all stages of a criminal case. This hands-on experience is accompanied by a classroom component designed to give students guidance, feedback and an open forum to discuss their cases and the various facets of defense work.
The Criminal Appellate/Post-Conviction Track involves representation of indigent defendants at appellate and post-conviction proceedings. This representation will occur at the trial and appellate courts as well as at state prisons. In addition, students will get the opportunity to advocate for broader changes in the criminal justice system through the filing of amicus briefs. This course includes a classroom component designed to foster both critical thinking and practical knowledge. Students will work under the supervision of Gopal Balachandran.
The Indigent Criminal Justice Practicum has two primary objectives: 1) provide criminal defendants who cannot afford private counsel with highly effective representation that is client-centered, professional and ethical, and 2) create a structured and supervised environment which enables each student to gain a detailed, working knowledge of how to represent a defendant; apply that knowledge to actual criminal cases; and gain feedback and reflection after each important stage of the case.
Students earn 5 credits per semester for the Trial Track and 3 credits per semester for the Criminal Appellate/Post-Conviction Track and must commit to participate in the clinic for two semesters (Fall and Spring). Visit the Indigent Criminal Justice Practicum for more information. This course satisfies the experiential learning requirement.