Indigent Defense

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
WED 3:45 - 5:35 pm JON 6.207/208

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


he rights of a criminal defendant are at the heart of the Bill of Rights, enshrined in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments.  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.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

Gideon's Trumpet: How One Man, a Poor Prisoner, Took His Case to the Supreme Court-and Changed the Law of the United States *
Anthony Lewis
ISBN: 978-0679723127
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption *
Bryan Stevenson
Spiegel & Grau
ISBN: 978-0812984965
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness *
Michelle Alexander
The New Press
ISBN: 978-1595586438
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America *
James Forman Jr.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374189976
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration-and How to Achieve Real Refo *
John Pfaff
Basic Books
ISBN: 978-0465096916


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