Criminal Prosecution Clinic: A Day in the Life

With great pleasure we introduce another blog in our day-in-the-life series–this one from the team of students involved in the Criminal Prosecution Clinic. This clinic is a robust part of Stanford Law School’s clinical education program and we’re excited to add its presence and perspective in this series. Students routinely worked out of the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office in San Jose during their winter clinical quarter and were supervised by Professor George Fisher and attorneys at the DA’s office. All six of them–Marcus Bourassa (JD ’16), Sara Estela (JD ’16), Lauren Harding (JD ’15), Courtney Khademi (JD ’16), Matt Miller (JD ’15), and Ian Stearns (JD ’15)–collaborated on this piece, bringing you a sense of a day in the life of a Criminal Prosecution Clinic student.


Criminal Prosecution Clinic: A Day in the Life
From left: Matthew Miller, Lauren Harding, Marcus Bourassa, Courtney Kahdemi, Ian Stearns, Sara Estela


8:00 a.m. — Arrive in the office a little earlier than normal to finish preparing for a preliminary hearing at 9:00. Go over outlines and exhibits for each witness. Review the elements of each charge—auto theft and residential burglary—and the testimony needed from each witness. Grab printouts of cases to read for the inevitable delay before the hearing actually begins. Walk over to the Hall of Justice.

 9:00 a.m. — Conduct the preliminary hearing to prove that there is probable cause that the crimes were committed and that the defendant committed them. Put on testimony from the homeowner who was robbed, the police officer who examined the scene of the crime, the detective who investigated, and the fingerprint expert who linked the defendant to the scene. Along the way, respond to objections from defense counsel and object when his questions are problematic. Conclude with a short argument. The judge rules in your favor on all of the charges and holds the defendant over for trial.

11:30 a.m. — Grab coffee in the courthouse with your five colleagues from Stanford and Prosecution Clinic Director George Fisher, who all attended the hearing.  After a moment for self-reflection and critique, your colleagues and Professor Fisher share positive and constructive feedback about the substance and style of your hearing. It’s also an opportunity to discuss big picture and ethical issues related to the case.

12:00 p.m. — Attend a lunch lecture with the law clerks from schools around the Bay Area. The presenter this week is a Deputy District Attorney in the gangs unit who is explaining the structure of one of California’s deadliest gangs and sharing law enforcement’s strategy behind the investigation and prosecution of its key leaders.

1:00 p.m. — Return to your desk after what seems like a very long time away. Work on responding to a defense motion to suppress evidence in a pending case. The defendant in the case was stopped by a police officer for biking with no lights down the wrong side of the street. The officer states that he had the defendant’s consent to conduct the search. The defendant denies having given it.

4:00 p.m. — Step out of the office with your Law and Motions unit supervisor, who discusses her past experiences in other units–Family Violence and Sex Crimes.

4:45 p.m. — Discuss and practice an upcoming argument on the phone with Professor Fisher before the group heads out for the day. The oral argument you moot is a brief one, and the hearing isn’t for few days, but it’s for a tough case. The defendant is charged with sex trafficking. Professor Fisher flags a couple of issues to talk about with the Deputy District Attorney supervising the case before commenting that the argument is smooth overall. You’ll get the chance to practice the argument with Professor Fisher one more time during your in-person one-on-one meeting later in the week.