Centers Of Excellence

Criminal Justice Program

The Criminal Justice Program (CJP) serves as a central hub for UCLA Law’s criminal justice research, curriculum, and student programs.


Moving Justice Forward

Explore the impacts of the criminal legal system on individuals, communities, and American society.


Faculty at UCLA Law have published widely in the area of criminal law. The research interests of our faculty cover a wide range of issues, including qualified immunity, the criminalization of immigration, the collateral consequences of criminal convictions, comparative criminal law, fines and fees in the criminal system, Fourth Amendment law, policing, the impact of racial bias on charging and sentencing decisions, plea bargaining, juvenile justice, prison conditions, and much more. Through seminars and special research projects initiated by CJP, students regularly have the opportunity to engage in independent research projects, support faculty research, and engage in projects to disseminate research findings in ways that impact public policy.


Students at UCLA Law have the opportunity to enroll in a full menu of criminal law courses with leading faculty in the field. In addition to the required introductory criminal law class, students may enroll in core advanced courses such as EvidenceCriminal Procedure: Investigations, Criminal Procedure: Adjudication, Criminal Procedure: Habeas Corpus, Capital Punishment in America, Federal White Collar Crime. UCLA Law also offers numerous courses in international and comparative criminal law, including Global Perspectives on Criminal Procedure and International Criminal Law. There are also many specialty seminars to choose from, including:

UCLA Law also offers experiential courses for students interested in criminal practice. Classes such as Criminal Trial Advocacy and Advanced Criminal Trial Advocacy teach valuable courtroom advocacy skills. In addition, students may represent clients under the supervision of experienced faculty in the following experiential courses:

Students also regularly enroll in part-time externships with local public defender and prosecutor offices, including at the Federal Public Defender and U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, the Los Angeles Public Defender, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and the Los Angeles City Attorney. Students interested in full-time externships travel throughout the country to join cutting-edge criminal law practices.

Student Engagement

Students at UCLA Law have numerous opportunities to develop their interests in criminal justice through membership in student groups, editing the Criminal Justice Law Review, summer internships, and volunteering at community-based organizations.

Student Membership Organizations

  • UCLA Law Students for Decarceration (LSFD) is a student-led group that fosters an inclusive forum for UCLA Law students to contribute to advancing justice within the criminal law system. LSFD seeks to promote criminal law dialogue, practice, reform, policy, and scholarship related to decarceration. LSFD promotes inclusive and diverse participation in a critical examination of the criminal legal system.
  • Child and Youth Advocates (CYA) is a student-led group to provide UCLA Law students with opportunities to learn about the many sub-disciplines of child and youth law, including child welfare, family law, juvenile justice, education, and crimes against children. CYA enables students to connect with organizations providing legal services to children, learn from invited speakers and panelists, and participate in community service with local youth-serving organizations. They aim to inform members about legal issues affecting children and youth and support their endeavors in the field.
  • Bruin Underground Scholars supports the academic experiences of students that identify as formerly incarcerated and/or system impacted. Bruin Underground Scholars understands that UCLA Law’s students come from a plethora of walks and honors the lived experiences of those that have dealt with the direct and indirect experiences of the carceral system.
  • Alliance of Formerly Incarcerated & System-Involved Students (AFISIS) is an organization of formerly incarcerated/system-involved students and allies. AFISIS is dedicated to advocating on behalf of formerly incarcerated and system-involved students and aspiring law students and providing support. AFISIS’ first efforts involved creating a website to support prospective applicants to UCLA Law who identify as formerly incarcerated/system-involved.

Student Journal

UCLA School of Law hosts a student-run journal that focuses on current topics in criminal law and policy, the Criminal Justice Law Review (CJLR). CJLR seeks to develop a discourse regarding criminal justice by publishing articles, editorials, and interviews of practitioners, academics, and policymakers. CJLR also aims to foster a community by hosting an annual symposium for students, academics, practitioners, policymakers, and judges to come together to discuss current criminal justice issues.

Volunteer Opportunities

El Centro’s Reentry Legal Clinic is a volunteer clinic that trains students to prepare expungement petitions in partnership with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization A New Way of Life.

Career Resources

Students interested in criminal law careers should consult the following job guides as well as take advantage of the career counseling available through the Office of Public Interest Programs and Office of Career Services.

Community Resources

There are many opportunities for students to become involved in local organizations working on criminal law related issues in Los Angeles. Here is just a small selection:

  • American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California’s Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform Team—a project committed to helping re-envision a criminal justice approach that is fair and free of racial bias, keeps communities safe and respects the dignity and rights of all who come into contact with it.
  • Anti-Recidivism Coalition—an organization that works to end mass incarceration in California by providing a support network, comprehensive reentry services, and opportunities to advocate for policy change.
  • California System-Involved Bar Association—an organization whose mission is to diversity California’s legal profession by increasing access to legal education and State Bar of California licensure for people with prior criminal justice system involvement.
  • DA Accountability Coalition—a coalition of local justice reform organizations, advocates, artists, organizers, and people who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system promoting greater accountability within the Los Angeles DA’s office.
  • Drug Policy Alliance—an organization committed to promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. They envision a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health, and human rights.
  • Justice LA—a coalition that works to reduce the footprint of incarceration by stopping jail expansion and reclaiming, reimagining and reinvesting dollars away from incarceration and into community-based systems of care.
  • Los Angeles Youth Uprising Coalition—a coalition that builds power through youth leadership, direct action organizing and policy advocacy to dismantle the racist juvenile justice system and divert its resources towards holistic models of youth development that ensure LA youth rise and thrive.
  • Reimagine Child Safety Coalition—a Los Angeles County-based group of advocates, organizations and impacted families united against the child welfare/family regulation system
  • Stop LAPD Spying—a community group building power toward abolition of the police state.

Who We Are


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May 29, 2024

Joanna Schwartz's research on qualified immunity for police is featured in the Daily Journal

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May 28, 2024

Joanna Schwartz earns high-level honors for her work on police accountability

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