Youth Justice Clinic

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Youth Justice Clinic

The Youth Justice Clinic is either a one or two-semester clinic in which third-year law students represent children accused of crimes and status offenses. Our cases principally involve the defense of youths in delinquency and undisciplined proceedings in Durham and Orange Counties. In this context, students handle a wide variety of felony and misdemeanor cases, ranging from disorderly conduct to assault and drug distribution. Additionally, students represent children alleged to be truant, beyond the disciplinary control of their parents, and runaways, as well as sixteen and seventeen-year-olds who have petitioned for emancipation. Students are also assigned to represent clients in long-term suspension hearings and appeals. When appropriate, students handle appellate matters.

While cases are assigned to individual students, each student works with a partner and the pair meets regularly as a team with their faculty supervisor. Students research legal theories and defenses, prepare and update case plans documenting defense strategy, draft motions and legal memoranda, and prepare witness examinations and argument for evidentiary hearings. Students also conduct pretrial and pre-sentencing investigations in which they interview state and defense witnesses as well as family members and service providers. Throughout the process, students maintain regular contact with their clients, advising and counseling them at each stage.

Students appear in court frequently and handle all aspects of youth court practice and procedure, including detention, probable cause, motions, trial and sentencing. Students regularly negotiate with prosecutors and court personnel on behalf of their clients. In the suspension context, students appear in contested hearings before school administrators and administrative law judges.

Registration & Requirements

Registration The Youth Justice Clinic is limited to third-year students. A lottery registration meeting for Externship and Clinical Programs is held approximately one month into the spring semester of your 2nd year. Notices are posted throughout the Law School and emailed to the 2nd year student listserv. After the lottery registration meeting, students are given an opportunity to register for their program preferences online.

Please note: Students may not enroll in any externship programs while enrolled in the Youth Justice Clinic. In addition, students may not volunteer or be employed by any District Attorney office during their enrollment in the Youth Justice Clinic and Criminal Lawyering Process Class.

Requirements include:

  • Youth Justice Clinic - 3 credits, graded (Fall), 3 credits, graded (Spring)
  • Criminal Procedure-Investigation AND Evidence are prerequisites and must be taken prior to the fall semester of your 3rd year.
  • Trial Advocacy is a pre- or co-requisite and must be taken prior to or during the fall semester of your 3rd year.
  • Criminal Lawyering Process -- 3 credits, graded, WE. All Youth Justice Clinic students must take this course during the fall semester. The course covers, in a lecture and simulation format, the same skills that are developed in the clinic as well as substantive and procedural law focusing on North Carolina youth law and procedure in order to prepare students for their clinic work. Simulation exercises are used to teach the range of skills involved in youth practice. The course also presents for discussion and written reflection and analysis various ethical, strategic and systemic issues that arise in the cases in which the students are involved. Each week, students will prepare one or more written assignments focusing on different components of defense practice. Assignments will include preparing memoranda on theory of the case, investigation, client interviewing, and motion drafting, among others. Criminal Lawyering Process is required for all full year, fall, and spring students enrolled in the Youth Justice Clinic.
  • All students enrolled in the clinic must attend the mandatory Youth Justice Clinic Intensive Weekend held early in the Fall semester.
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106 | Accessibility

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