What do students do in this clinic?
Students work side-by-side with staff attorneys in the Innocence Project of Minnesota (IPMN) as they investigate and litigate inmates’ claims of actual innocence. These investigations go to the heart of current issues in the criminal justice system, such as the reliability of eyewitness identification, the problem of false confessions, the use of snitches and informants, government misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and forensic sciences including DNA testing. Class time is devoted to training and case work.
Students are assigned cases and expected to gather source materials such as police reports and transcripts. They will organize and summarize those materials. After educating themselves about their cases, students will design and implement an investigative plan with their supervisor and pursue that investigation. This may include locating evidence, experts and witnesses. Students must be willing and able to meet with and interview witnesses at a variety of locations. Some local travel will be required.
This clinic puts students on the cutting edge of scientific and social science issues that affect the practice of law in the criminal justice system as well as hands-on experience in managing and analyzing large-scale cases for litigation.
Students must have regular access to a computer with internet. Students will be required to track their hours on a cloud based software program. Students must also communicate regularly with IPMN staff via email. Students may not work for a prosecutor’s office while in this clinic. There will be a single night weekend retreat required for students in this clinic. It will be held the weekend after Labor Day. This clinic is a full-year clinic that carries 3 credits per semester in the fall and spring.
What happens in the classroom component?
Lectures on criminal process, common causes of wrongful convictions, habeas corpus law, and ethics; practice interviewing and memo writing based on hypothetical facts; and updating and strategizing ongoing case investigations.
What do students learn in this clinic?
An in-depth view of the criminal justice system and postconviction process; how to organize and summarize information from documents for the purpose of complex civil litigation; internet research; client and witness interviewing; and legal research and writing.
When is this clinic offered?
This is a two-semester clinic that begins in the fall each year.
How many credits?
Six total credits (three in the fall and three in the spring)
Are students permitted or encouraged to take this clinic for additional semesters?
Students are required to take the clinic for two semesters and in rare cases may continue for additional semesters with the consent of the instructor.
Are there any required or recommended pre-requisites?
Professional Responsibility (which can be taken in the fall, concurrently with the clinic)
Can students with full-time jobs take this clinic?
In addition to the weekly classroom component, students need to be available for a weekend clinic retreat held in the first weekend after Labor Day each year. Students also need the flexibility to pursue investigation (including reviewing courthouse records onsite or interviewing attorneys) during weekday business hours.
Can students who live outside the Twin Cities take this clinic?
Students must be available to conduct investigations onsite in Minnesota, South Dakota, or North Dakota.
Who should take this clinic?
Students with an interest in pursuing a career in criminal justice (prosecution or defense) and students who want experience with complex investigation and civil litigation. Students may not work for a prosecutor’s office while in this clinic.