Students in this yearlong clinic investigate and litigate wrongful convictions of inmates throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Some of the cases have forensic evidence (usually DNA) that could be tested, and some are non-DNA cases.
Preliminary cases are assigned to individual clinic students for factual development and evaluation to determine whether or not the clinic should accept the case. The decision to accept or decline representation will be made by the full clinic with the final decision being made by Professor Deirdre Enright. Students work in teams of 3-4 to investigate and litigate the cases that are accepted. In every case, students are directed and assisted by the clinic professors, but as students demonstrate competence and confidence, they may earn the opportunity for greater independence. Although the clinic will have a mandatory classroom component, most time will be devoted to casework — interviewing potential clients and witnesses, general investigation, reviewing case files, collecting records, searching court files and drafting pleadings. Students will likely visit inmates at correctional centers, and conduct investigation in a wide variety of socioeconomic settings accompanied by a clinic professor, private investigator or, in some instances, another student.
Students should attempt to arrange their schedules to have at least one full weekday free for investigations. Some weekend and evening investigations are also required. In addition, student teams meet regularly with Professor Enright for supervision and direction. Students earn eight credits for the year, four of which are graded and four of which are ungraded. Students should anticipate that the clinic will require a minimum of 15 hours per week, but the hours required for clinic work will vary according to the demands of the cases. The professors will not always be able to predict or control when the cases will demand intensive hours, so flexibility is important. One enrolled in the clinic, you may not drop.
Interested students must apply and be accepted to enroll in the clinic.