The St. John’s Law School Criminal Defense Clinic (CDC) is a full-year partner clinic through which students explore the defense side of criminal practice.
CDC students represent indigent persons accused of committing misdemeanor and other minor offenses. Students are assigned to work in either Kings County under the supervision of Brooklyn Defender Services (“BDS”) or in Queens County under the supervision of The Legal Aid Society Queens Criminal Defense Trial Office (“LASQns”)
Students selected for the CDC carry their own caseload of clients pursuant to a Student Practice Order that allows them to represent individuals in Criminal Court under the supervision of a designated mentor-attorney. CDC students assume all the duties of a criminal defense lawyer and handle all aspects of their clients’ cases from arraignment to disposition of the case. This includes the initial client interview, representing the client at the arraignment in Criminal Court, bail applications and hearings, case investigations, discovery, writing, filing and arguing motions on behalf of the client, conducting pre-trial hearings, plea negotiations and representing the client at all court appearances, including any trial on the charges.
The CDC is available to up to fourteen students who have completed two (2) semesters at the Law School, have taken the course in Criminal Law, and are in good academic standing.
CDC Students must work at least fourteen (14) hours a week at their defender organization and must also participate in the weekly seminar each semester. CDC Students receive 4 letter-graded credits each semester. Grades are based on student performance at the placement site and in the seminar.
Clinic participation satisfies the Advanced Practice Writing Requirement.
Charles S. Bobis
Adjunct Professor of Law
Professor of Law (Retired)[email protected]
The selection process for students who would like to participate in the St. John’s Law School Criminal Defense Clinic (CDC) begins in March of each year, with the general Clinical Information Session. Interested students should attend the information session where they can obtain a brochure about the clinic and discuss the CDC experience with current CDC students and faculty. The CDC brochure contains a link to the on-line application process by which prospective students can fill out the CDC application, upload the required materials, and make an appointment for a personal interview with the clinic instructors.
More information on the two defender organizations that partner with the CDC, Brooklyn Defender Services and The Legal Aid Society Queens Criminal Defense Trial Office, is available at:
Students can apply for the Criminal Defense Clinic during the spring semester for the following school year.
Submit an online application
Upload the following within the online application:
After submitting all required documents, an interview will be scheduled.
The basic course in Criminal Law is a prerequisite. The "Criminal Procedure: Investigation" course is a co-requisite: students who have not already taken it must do so during Part I of the CDC (fall semester). "Evidence" is also a co-requisite: students who have not already completed it must take it during the clinic year, but may do so concurrent with either Part I or Part II of the CDC. CDC students who have completed the course in "Evidence" are encouraged, but not required, to take the course in "Trial Advocacy" during the clinic year.
Each week, students participate in a two-hour seminar class that seeks to integrate legal theory with criminal defense practice. Among the topics covered in the seminar are interviewing and counseling clients, investigating the case and locating witnesses, awareness of the immigration and other collateral consequences of criminal convictions, advocating for pretrial release, conducting discovery, motion practice suppression hearings and plea negotiations. Student are introduced to important provisions of New York substantive criminal law and criminal procedure that govern misdemeanor prosecutions, and delve into challenging questions of criminal defense and prosecution ethics that they frequently encounter in their clinic experience. A case rounds model and a bi-weekly journal are incorporated so students have ample opportunity to reflect on their experiences in representing their clients and on their development as criminal defense attorneys. Students are also required to submit weekly time sheets documenting their activities at their placement site.
The seminar also includes intensive client interviewing, advocacy skills training sessions and plea negotiation simulations throughout the year that give students ample opportunity to develop the litigation and negotiation skills they need to effectively represent their clients in court.