Defense Clinic Students Earn 5 Acquittals, 6 Dismissals
Eleven students who took the Criminal Defense Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law in the fall ultimately earned five acquittals and six case dismissals on behalf of their clients who faced misdemeanor charges.
Of the 29 cases (out of the 33 assigned) that reached a resolution, 38 percent were acquittals or dismissed by the end of the semester — “which is pretty amazing,” said clinic co-instructor Lisa Lorish. She noted that the conviction rate for misdemeanors is typically quite high.
One of the clinic’s third-year students, Teddy Kristek, earned two acquittals — or not-guilty verdicts — at trial. In one case, the client was found not guilty of two counts of vandalism. In the other, the client was found not guilty of driving with a suspended license.
“I really valued the opportunity to represent real clients and put my legal education to work. It was very rewarding to provide legal defense for clients in need,” Kristek said. “While I was definitely nervous arguing in court for the first time, seeing the reaction and hearing the gratitude of my client after his charges were dismissed made everything worth it.”
Robbie Pomeroy and Nathan Vanderpoel also earned acquittals in separate assault-and-battery cases, and Lauren Gerber earned a not-guilty verdict for a client on an assault charge.
The semester-long clinic provides an experience-based study of the processes, techniques, strategies and responsibilities of legal representation at the trial level. Students receive three misdemeanor cases that they are responsible for handling, ideally all the way to final resolution.
“I attribute the success of the students to their rigorous pretrial investigation and the diligent supervision they received from their incredibly experienced supervisors: Bonnie Lepold, Lacey Parker, and Janice Redinger,” Lorish said.
Those charged with a misdemeanor under Virginia law face up to 12 months of incarceration and substantial fines.
“Even a small period of incarceration can cause someone to lose their job, their child care, or expose their immigration status,” Lorish said.
She added that 13 million misdemeanor cases are filed annually across the American criminal system, comprising 80 percent of all state criminal dockets.