Students enrolled in the Criminal Defense Clinic work under the supervision of law school faculty on real cases and problems facing individuals charged with crimes and living with criminal records. In addition, the clinic works on broader criminal justice policy projects in collaboration with other community members and service providers. As an important community resource, the clinic endeavors to take on challenging cases that fill a gap in the provision of legal services in Los Angeles.
The Criminal Defense Clinic was established in 2009 and has won many important victories on behalf its clients and communities. The clinic has defended political protesters, veterans, sidewalk vendors and mobile catering vendors against harassment and ticketing by police. Faculty and students have also worked for a number of years in the area of post-conviction relief, winning pardons and clemency for past clients.
One special area of focus is work at the intersection of criminal defense and immigration enforcement, as immigrant communities are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. For example, in 2019 the clinic partnered with the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles to represent individuals with criminal convictions in order to obtain their release on bond in immigration court. Each year, the cases and policy projects that the clinic takes on are different and responsive to specific needs in the community.
The seminar associated with the clinic examines the role of the defense lawyer in the criminal justice process. Students develop a range of critical lawyering skills, including trauma-informed investigation, interviewing and counseling, persuasive brief writing and trial techniques. Throughout, clinic faculty mentor students to practice zealous and client-centered advocacy, while developing techniques to guard against stress and burnout that adversely impact many practicing lawyers.
Graduates of the Criminal Defense Clinic become part of a vibrant community of more than 100 alumni working all over the country, primarily in public defender offices and at nonprofits focused on immigrant rights.
Gubernatorial Pardons in California | Perdones del Gobernador en California
Criminalizing the Sidewalk: Why the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Should Take Action to Reform the Unjust Treatment of Low-Income Sidewalk Vendors
Gov. Brown Grants Pardons to Five Clients of UCLA Law Clinic (Jan. 22, 2019)
Gov. Jerry Brown Grants Dozens of Pardons—Including Three for People Facing Deportation (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 17, 2018)
Governor Brown Pardons Five Immigrants Facing Deportation (Los Angeles Times, Mar. 30, 2018)
Class Gives UCLA Law Students Experience Defending Real Clients (Daily Bruin, Sept. 4, 2016)
UCLA Law Students Win Clemency for Man Serving Life Sentence for Nonviolent Drug Offense (UCLA Newsroom Aug. 22, 2016)
Professor Eagly Defends LA Street Vendors in Interview on KPCC's "Take Two" (KPCC 89.3, Apr. 28, 2015)
Work of Criminal Defense Clinic on Behalf of Street Vendors Featured in Los Angeles Times Article (Los Angeles Times, Apr. 27, 2015)
UCLA School of Law Report Provides Recommendations to Reform the Unjust Treatment of Sidewalk Vendors (Apr. 7, 2015)
Law Students Champion Cause of Taco Truck Vendors (UCLA Newsroom, July 14, 2009)
UCLA School of Law Criminal Defense Clinic Wins Case Challenging Validity of Los Angeles City Ordinance Implemented Against Catering Truck Vendors (Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2009)