Indigent Defense

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
TUE 4:15 - 6:05 pm TNH 2.138

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


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.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness *
Michelle Alexander
The New Press
ISBN: 978-1595586438
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption *
Bryan Stevenson
Spiegel & Grau
ISBN: 978-0812984965
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration-and How to Achieve Real Refo *
John Pfaff
Basic Books
ISBN: 978-0465096916
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America *
James Forman Jr.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374189976
Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison *
Bruce Western
Baby and up
ISBN: 978-0871549556


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Important Class Changes

Date Updated
04/20/2020 Room(s) changed