Indigent Defense

Read the course description below to learn how this course will be taught.

Class Unique: 28025
Online-only Unique: 28026

The 28025 section of this course will be taught in person but with the option of occasional remote participation via Zoom.  If students require all remote participation, they must register for the 28026 section of this course, which is identical but web-based.

The rights of a person charged by the government with a crime are at the heart of the Bill of Rights, enshrined in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and EighthAmendments. No single “issue” receives more attention in the Bill of Rights than protections afforded someone before they are incarcerated. And yet America incarcerates people at a rate higher than most countries in the world. Course materials will examine how the socio-economic and racial disparities in the population of people incarcerated in America reflects this country’s history of poverty, slavery, and Jim Crow laws and segregation. A public defender stands at this crossroads with her client, and must be prepared to provide zealous representation of her client in this context.

This course will explore both the theoretical and practical elements of indigent criminal defense, exploring questions such as: How do criminal justice theory and practice interact? What can an individual lawyer do to further her client's interests within this context? What is the role of the public defender in criminal justice reform? How does a public defender maintain the long view on mass incarceration and socio-economic and racial inequalities in the criminal justice system while advocating for her individual clients?

Weekly reading assignments will explore these topics, from a variety of perspectives and disciplines, and students will be required to discuss their reflections during class discussions. Students will be provided case studies, where they will be required to analyze and discuss legal and practical strategies for client communications, motions, cross-examinations, and sentencing analysis and mitigation.

Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Tuesday 4:15 - 6:05 pm TNH 2.138
Evaluation Method Date Time Alpha Range Room

Additional Information

Course Type
Grading Method
Pass/Fail Not Allowed
Will use floating mean GPA if applicable


You will find the most up-to-date information on textbook assignments via the University Co-Op website.