There is currently a groundswell for criminal justice reform. At the same time, much is being written about the lack of hard facts and reliable data to inform these changes. This clinic aims to step into that void and take on collaborative projects to produce those hard facts and reliable data for all types of organizations that need it.

Clinic students will produce white papers, op-eds, research papers and/or testimony in support of legislation related to criminal justice reform. Students should expect to devote a minimum of 12-15 hours to clinic work each week.

Some projects may involve meetings/document review in other offices in the commonwealth of Virginia, so a car would be enormously useful, although not essential. Additionally, having a full day with no classes (preferably a Monday or a Friday) to travel/investigate will greatly enhance the clinical experience. 

Upcoming projects for the 2023-24 school year include:

  • Police car light
    Reviewing case files of a corrupt detective to identify and remedy the wrongfully convicted and innocent. 
  • Identifying cold and unsolved rapes and murders — in the U.S. and other countries — and linking them to a known (deceased) serial killer.
  • Researching and identifying causes of racial imbalance on Virginia jury venires and proposing solutions on how to fix it.
  • Analyzing the Virginia Parole Board’s public parole grant information (and additional data obtained from FOIA requests) to create a report responding to – and refuting – the Attorney General’s claim that Virginia’s number of parole grants is too high. 
  • People in court
    Using prior clinic work (op-ed, white paper and research) to encourage the General Assembly to reform the juvenile transfer statute.
  • Writing a motion challenging Virginia’s practice of requiring indigent defendants, who are ultimately found guilty, to pay the Commonwealth back for the cost of their public defender once they are released and financially stable. 

Prior clinic projects include:

  • Crime scene tape
    Researching and drafting a list of all known differential diagnoses in shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma cases, ultimately to propose legislation that requires they be eliminated before a medical doctor can diagnose traumatic causation.
  • Creating a website for the state of Virginia that maps out the current harm reduction and needle exchange services that are available to residents of Virginia in every county and major city. The site shares information about the current state of the law and how to obtain Narcan and administer it to others.
  • Consulting with two of the leading law professors who research and write about gun regulations to determine the feasibility of implementing legislation to require gun owners to use low-capacity magazines. 
Lawyers hold a pen at a desk

To be considered for this clinic, students must both rank the clinic in the clinic lottery and submit application materials within the timeline set by the Student Records Office. Students selected for the clinic through the clinic application/lottery process will be automatically enrolled prior to the regular course lottery.

The positions that the clinic takes on behalf of its clients are independent of the views of the University of Virginia or the School of Law.

Deirdre M. Enright
Professor of Law, General Faculty
Director, Center for Criminal Justice
Director, Project for Informed Reform
Skills Taught
Collaboration, empirical research, policy analysis, nonlitigation writing
CR/NC (fall); H/P/F (spring)
Course Credits
8 (4 fall/4 spring)