Criminal Defense

The Criminal Defense Clinic aims to provide quality representation to individuals who are charged with crimes but cannot afford to hire a private attorney.  Students help to relieve public defenders from some of their tremendous caseloads.  At the same time, students gain valuable courtroom experience and practical skills essential to a successful criminal practice after law school.  Criminal district court is our classroom.

What We Do

Under the supervision of experienced criminal attorneys, students interview clients and witnesses, conduct pretrial investigations, and prepare any necessary motions in assigned cases.  Students handle all necessary court appearances with supervising attorneys available to provide advice as needed.  Students investigate possible alternatives to prosecution, conduct any necessary negotiations, prepare clients and witnesses for trial, and conduct all aspects of criminal litigation.  On occasions when clients are unable to attend meetings with students prior to the scheduled court date, students learn to process information and develop arguments quickly, giving them the confidence and competence to walk into a courtroom and handle any unforeseen circumstances.

Students enrolled in this Clinic are reminded daily of the importance of dedicated, knowledgeable, and professional counsel in furthering the cause of justice for those who are accused of a crime.

“I invite you into criminal district court, Monday through Friday at 9a.m. But come early, otherwise elbow your way into the 125-person capacity courtroom where often 300-400 cases are scheduled. Unfortunately you will see mostly black faces. Drugs, assaults and larceny cases predominate. You will hear that most defendants are unemployed and dropped out of school. Many use drugs. Criminal records are blockades to jobs and courthouse doors keep revolving. The common denominator is poverty.” – Marcia H. Morey, District Court Judge, Durham County, NC.


Information For Students

“The Criminal Defense Clinic is a rewarding experience because it brings all of our classes into perspective and it confirms my interest in criminal litigation.”  – Renorda Herring, Class of 2007

Our Structure

The Criminal Defense Clinic is a two-semester program.  The first semester consists of classroom instruction featuring a comprehensive review of North Carolina criminal procedure and practice. The classroom portion includes readings, lectures, written problems, group discussions and participation in simulated court proceedings. In the second semester, students handle cases referred from the Durham County Public Defender’s Office.  As externs, students may work in any public defender office in the state.  All Criminal Defense Clinic students handle criminal and traffic matters in District Court, including charges such as larceny, trespass, assault, probation violations, driving while impaired, and illegal drug possession.

Prerequisites:  Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Trial Practice

Information for Clients

The Criminal Litigation Clinic Internship Program represents clients who have been charged with misdemeanors and infractions in Durham County District Court.  We accept referrals from the Durham County Public Defender’s Office.  On your first court date, you can request a court appointed attorney, or contact the Durham County Public Defender at 919-564-7000 for a referral.

Other Resources

Durham County Courts Directory
North Carolina Court System Home Page
Office of Indigent Defense Services
North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers
North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc.
The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence
The Center for Death Penalty Litigation

Information for Agencies

Need an extern? The Criminal Litigation Clinic Externship Program places law students with District Attorneys and Public Defenders throughout the state. Externs are usually placed during the spring semester and summer terms.

Contact Information

Supervising Attorney: Dionne R. Gonder-Stanley
Potential Clients: On your first court date, you can request a court appointed attorney, or contact the Durham County Public Defender at 919-564-7000 for a referral.