Criminal Defense Clinic

Students in the Criminal Defense Clinic become immersed in the world of indigent defense. Each student represents members of our community accused of crimes in the courts of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Our state misdemeanor cases encompass a wide range of charges, such as drug use and possession, resisting arrest, and theft. Other state case assignments include working for people’s pretrial release. Some quarters, our docket also includes federal cases in the Northern District of California.

Clinic students are their clients’ primary legal representatives in and out of court. Under the close supervision of Professor Ronald Tyler and Lecturer Suzanne Luban, students undertake investigation, interview witnesses, engage in plea negotiations, draft motions, conduct evidentiary hearings, and make other court appearances. Persuasive writing with rigorous faculty edits is a major component of the clinic.

The Criminal Defense Clinic is an intensive, fast-paced, and demanding program of education and practical skills, taught through introductory training and ongoing workshops and skills practicums. The Clinic also addresses broader systemic issues such as implicit bias, immigration consequences, economic disparities, and addiction.

The goal of the Clinic is to train students how to conduct a criminal case while engaging in thoughtful reflection and providing holistic representation. The Clinic’s broader goal is to provide lawyering skills and habits of mind transferrable to any student’s chosen field of practice. While the work is often challenging and sometimes heartbreaking, it offers students a unique opportunity to put their skills, intellect, and compassion to use by serving people in a moment of great need. The emotional challenges of the Clinic’s work are addressed through an integrated self-care curriculum.

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Referrals and Resources

Unfortunately, our limited resources do not allow us to function as a general public defender agency. If you need an attorney in a criminal case please call the public defender agency in your county to see if you are eligible for their services.

  • San Mateo County: (650) 298-4030
  • Santa Clara County: (408) 299-7700
  • San Mateo County Case Information: http://www.sanmateocourt.org/midx/
  • Santa Clara County Case Information: Santa Clara County
  • San Mateo County Lawyer Referral Service: (650) 369-4149
  • California Lawyer Referral Service: (866) 442-2529