Prosecution Clinic

Prosecution Clinic

Prosecution Clinic student and Joe Platania

Prosecution Clinic

This yearlong clinical course exposes students to all aspects of the prosecutorial function, provides students with hands-on courtroom experience and pushes students to think about issues surrounding the American criminal justice system.

Through a combination of classroom lectures, discussions, guest speakers and field placement in one of several local prosecutors’ offices, students will explore a range of practical, ethical and intellectual issues involved in the discharge of a prosecutor’s duties and responsibilities.  

The highlight of the clinic is the students’ experiences interning in the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Offices for Charlottesville or Albemarle County, or one of 16 other surrounding Virginia jurisdictions within 30-75 minutes of the law school. Students who prefer experience in a federal office can seek placement in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond.  For the full academic year, students will be assigned to one of these participating prosecutors’ offices, where they are expected to work on pending cases or in court approximately 10-21 hours per week. Most of the students’ responsibilities and duties will be at the trial court or pre-trial level, but may include writing appellate briefs and research assignments. Students are expected to work out a suitable schedule with the office to which he or she is assigned, and many offices require or strongly recommend that students split their weekly commitment over two days. Students must be willing to work in whatever office is assigned and are responsible for their own transportation and commuting costs.

In the fall semester, field placement is supplemented by classroom lectures, discussions, and speakers, so that students are prepared to appear in court and handle a range of criminal matters. Specifically, lectures will focus on Virginia crimes, defenses, procedure, and criminal case issues, such as warrants, bond hearings, competency issues, motion practice, trial preparation, and sentencing. Experienced guest speakers will help complement and illustrate the issues raised in the lectures. In the spring semester, classroom time will be devoted to discussion of issues students are experiencing in the courtroom and which are reflective of system-based issues generally. Such discussions and speakers may address topics such as race and the law, gender and the law, criminal justice and sentencing reform, the role of forensic science, the effect of the opioid epidemic on the criminal justice system, mental health issues, diversion courts, or other issues students wish addressed.

Throughout the year, students also will be required to observe certain court proceedings and participate in a ride-along with a police officer. There will be take-home test in the fall semester and a major paper (10-12 pages) due at the end of the spring semester. The paper is not a research paper and will not satisfy the upper-level writing requirement.  In addition, student assessment will be based on clinic participation. Students will receive three credit hours in the fall and five in the spring semester.

Students who wish to enroll must complete an application form and submit it online via DocuSign. A sample application is available for your review. No paper or faxed applications will be accepted. All applications must be received no later than 5:00pm on June 14, 2021. Applications are only available online.

Selected students will be notified prior to the lottery enrollment process commencing in July. Because spaces in the program are limited, and because of the need to perform background checks in some instances that require deployment of significant resources, the application sheet includes a formal representation which must be signed by the student that he or she will honor the commitment to undertake this program, if selected. It is helpful if the students applying for this clinic keep as many mornings open (free from classes) as possible, since most courts meet in the morning. 

Attendance requirement:  Enrolled students who do not attend the first class session will be dropped. 

Prerequisites:  Third-year status, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Criminal Adjudication or Criminal Investigation or Criminal Procedure Survey, and Trial Advocacy.  Either Trial Ad or one of the criminal procedure courses may be taken first semester third-year as a “co-requisite,” but not both. Students must be eligible for and obtain a Third-Year Practice Certification from the Virginia Bar, so that they can appear in the courtroom.

Skills Taught
Investigating and prosecuting crimes; hearings; Grand Jury; relationships with police, defense counsel and victims; preparing witnesses; ethics of prosecution; and more
Course Length
Course Credits