FAQs for prospective students

  1. What type of cases does the Capital Punishment Clinic work on?

    The clinic works on cases of people facing the death penalty in Texas.  In some cases, the clinic supervisors are counsel-of-record in the case; in other cases, we work in conjunction with a defense team that has been appointed to represent the client.  Most of our cases involve representation of death-sentenced prisoners in appellate or post-conviction habeas corpus stages of review, but we have also provided assistance to capital defense teams representing defendants at trial.

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  2. How many students can enroll in the Capital Punishment Clinic per year? Is placement competitive?

    Enrollment in the Capital Punishment Clinic is generally limited to 12 students, but we have made exceptions in some semesters, depending on our capacity to supervise a larger number.  In admitting students into the clinic, we generally give priority to students who list our clinic as their first choice.  If more students seek to enroll in the clinic than we can admit, we also consider whether students will have another opportunity to enroll in the clinic later in law school (i.e., whether they are in their second or third year of law school) and whether the student’s professional goals and interests align with the work that the clinic does.

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  3. Are there any course prerequisites for taking the Capital Punishment Clinic?

    Yes, students are required to either be enrolled in the Capital Punishment course during the semester in which they are enrolled in the Clinic or to have already taken the Capital Punishment course during a prior semester.  While there are no other course prerequisites, we think students will find it advantageous to have a background in constitutional criminal procedure and evidence before enrolling in the Clinic.

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  4. Will I have the opportunity to meet clients at the prison?

    It is important to us that students have the opportunity to meet and get to know the clients for whom they are working.  Under normal circumstances, students are expected to travel to Livingston, Texas at least once during the semester to visit clients on death row, and more often if they choose.  However, because of the COVID pandemic, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been closed to visiting since March 2020.  As soon as client visiting resumes, students will again have the opportunity to meet with clients at the prison.

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  5. How does the Clinic work, and what kind of work will I do in the Clinic?

    Students are assigned to work in teams under the supervision of the clinical instructors.  Each litigation team will meet on a weekly basis to discuss assignments and brainstorm strategies for defense of the case.

    Because the Clinic works on capital cases at all stages of the legal process, students can expect to work on a range of projects and assignments over the course of the semester, including reviewing the trial record and “issue spotting” potential claims of appellate error; researching and drafting legal documents such as motions, appellate briefs, or habeas corpus petitions; and conducting field work, such as interviewing jurors, witnesses, or members of the client’s family.

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  6. How many hours can I expect to devote to the Clinic each week?

    We require students to complete 120 hours of work over the course of the semester in order to pass the course.  Not counting the first and last weeks of the semester (when students are just getting started or winding down on their projects), this works out to roughly 10 hours per week. However, students can expect to do more than 10 hours of work in some weeks and less in others, depending on the demands of the case.

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