The Criminal Defense Clinics place law students inside the Public Defender Office for the Western Judicial Circuit. During summer semester students may extern at certain other PD offices, including offices in Atlanta, Gainesville, and others in relatively close proximity to Athens. The Western Judicial Circuit Public Defender Office office is located at 160 E. Washington Street in downtown Athens, a five minute walk from the Law School. The full-time staff of the office includes 15 attorneys, four investigators, and five other support staff. The Western Judicial Circuit includes Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties and the Western Circuit Public Defender Office handles all manner of criminal cases in juvenile, municipal, state and superior courts, plus appeals.
The Criminal Defense Clinic I (JUR 5170) serves as an introduction to working in the public defender office and the local courts. The course is designed for 2d year students, but 3d year students may enroll. Students in 5170 are required to observe all of the standard court appearances that occur in the criminal process – bond hearings, committal hearings, motion hearings, arraignments, trials, guilty pleas and sentencings – as well as to work for their supervising attorney assisting with case investigation, witness interviewing, legal research, court presentations and all other work that is integral to a criminal defense practice.
Criminal Defense Clinic II (JUR 4500) is for 3rd year students who have previously taken Criminal Defense Clinic I. CDC II students also work for supervising attorneys in the public defender office and also represent clients before all courts and engage in the full range of courtroom advocacy, provided they are under the supervision of one of the licensed attorneys in the PD office.