The UCLA Criminal Defense Clinic was established in 2009 to address systemic issues in the criminal legal system.
The clinic has defended political protesters, veterans, sidewalk vendors and mobile catering vendors against harassment and ticketing by police. The clinic has also represented individuals seeking release from the immigration prison in Adelanto, California, and helped community members to obtain post-conviction relief, such as pardons and clemency.
Beyond individual client representation, the clinic seeks to collaborate with community members and service providers on community education initiatives to improve access to justice, as well as policy projects to reform the criminal legal system. As a public resource, the clinic endeavors to involve students in filling gaps in the provision of legal services in Los Angeles.
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. We also seek to expose students to issues of structural racism and other forms of inequality that are embedded in the operation of the criminal and immigration legal systems. Clinic faculty mentor students to practice zealous and client-centered advocacy, while developing techniques to guard against stress and burnout.
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 nonprofit organizations focused on immigrant rights.