Sentencing advocacy is central to the work of criminal defense lawyers. In the federal system, 97% of cases are resolved by plea bargaining and proceed immediately to sentencing. Sentencing law is notoriously complex and developing effective mitigation is time consuming and challenging. Yet, sentencing is infrequently studied in law schools, and even less attention is given to the defense lawyer’s crucial advocacy role alongside his or her client in the sentencing process.
The Sentencing Advocacy Workshop will examine client-centered and rebellious modes of advocacy on behalf of criminal defendants at sentencing. In terms of substantive law, the course will familiarize students with the sentencing process and the complex set of rules, guidelines, and substantive law that govern federal sentencing. We will also delve into crucial related topics such as sentencing biographical videos, psychological evaluations, and racial and citizenship bias in sentencing outcomes. From a lawyering perspective, the class will provide opportunities to work under faculty supervision to represent clients who have already entered a guilty plea and are now facing sentencing in federal court. Students will participate in mitigation investigation, client counseling, family and community participation in the sentencing process, the presentence interview process, and the writing of persuasive sentencing briefs.