The Youth Justice Clinic is a one or two-semester clinic in which third-year law students represent children accused of crimes. 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 misdemeanor and felony cases, ranging from disorderly conduct to assault and drug distribution. Students also 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.
Two faculty supervisors assign cases to third-year law students who work in pairs on each case. Students receive close supervision from experienced faculty as they prepare all aspects of the case for court.
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. When appropriate, students also handle appellate matters.