Criminal Justice Clinic

The Criminal Justice Clinic focuses on misdemeanor criminal defense. Law students working in the Criminal Justice Clinic represent in district and circuit court indigent clients facing criminal charges including assault, driving while intoxicated, shoplifting, and marijuana possession.

The Clinic represents low-income clients from Lexington, Rockbridge County and surrounding areas and receives case assignments directly from the courts. Operating on a completely pro bono basis, the Clinic takes no money from clients and does not receive compensation from the court system. The Clinic handles 40-60 cases each year.

The goal of the Clinic is to teach students the art of criminal defense and effective trial practice, while at the same time providing a level of representation second to none in the area. In addition to learning the substantive and procedural law of criminal practice, students are responsible for the entire life of the case until the trial is over. They conduct client interviews, make arguments on bail and conditions of release, find and interview witnesses, litigate evidence discovery, and argue sentencing motions among other tasks.

The Clinic is directed by Prof. J.D. King. For more information about the Clinic and to learn about eligibility requirements, contact Prof. King at 540.458.8518.

More About the Clinic

Clinic director J.D. King, who was himself a public defender for the District of Columbia, hopes that the clinic better prepares students planning on career in criminal defense for the challenges and frustrations of an often understaffed and underfunded public defender system.

"It's not unusual for public defenders to represent over fifty clients at a time," says King. "Our students rarely have more than two ongoing cases, and this allows them to learn the real way to try a case, to leave no stone unturned. They are able to focus on a case in a way that is not always possible in a high volume criminal defense practice."

King hopes the clinic will develop in students an understanding of what a well-functioning indigent criminal defense firm should look like, while exposing them to the significant challenges of this area of practice.

"Students will feel frustrated navigating a new system that's not always user friendly, and dealing with a deck that seems stacked against you," says King. "But they experience those frustrations in an environment that is supportive and encourages self reflection, becoming better and more creative litigators in the process."