The Criminal Appeals Externship offers students a first-hand opportunity to learn about criminal law and appellate advocacy while gaining practical experience drafting a brief on behalf of an indigent defendant in a New York State appellate court proceeding.
Each student selected for the externship will help represent a criminal defendant appealing his or her felony conviction to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department. The course will be conducted by Carl S. Kaplan and Peter Theis, two senior attorneys with the Center for Appellate Litigation (CAL).
The externship will consist of a seminar component and a field component. The weekly two-hour classroom seminar at Columbia Law School will focus on key points of appellate practice and New York criminal law. Early seminar sessions will address the appellate process, the preservation doctrine, scope of review, harmless error, legal insufficiency, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and weight of the evidence. Later sessions will address more practical skills, such as how to digest an appellate record, how to spot and weigh issues, how to write a statement of facts, and how to craft an effective legal argument. Seminar sessions will also explore the ethics of appellate advocacy, cover oral argument techniques, and discuss effective client communications. Classes will consist of lectures, discussions and some exercises. A field trip may be scheduled.
The field component will be at CAL, a public defender organization based in lower Manhattan that handles state court appeals for indigent defendants convicted of felonies in Manhattan and the Bronx. CAL, founded in 1997, engages in cutting-edge advocacy of defendants rights, often involving complex constitutional issues. In the major part of the field component, each student will be assigned his or her own "real" case through CAL and, under the supervision of one of the instructors, will draft an appellate brief for the client. Students will be expected to read, digest and annotate their case's full appellate record (including motion papers and hearing, trial and sentence transcripts), research and select issues, write initial and final drafts of the opening appellate brief, and correspond with the client. Students will meet individually with their assigned instructor every other week, at a minimum, at the CAL office. Additional thinking/editing sessions will occur as needed either at the Law School or CAL. After the course ends, the instructors will submit the briefs to CAL for peer review and then file them with the court. At the discretion of the instructors, students in the spring term may also draft a reply brief and/or orally argue their cases before a five-judge panel of the First Department. Each student will be expected to devote at least 10 hours per week to his or her briefs during the fall term.