University of Pittsburgh

Criminal Appellate Practicum

Catalog Number: 5998
4.0 Credits

This course, which is limited to six students, is an in-depth examination of criminal appellate law in Pennsylvania. Students will work on actual cases from the Allegheny County Law Office of the Public Defender. The course will be taught by Kirk J. Henderson, a senior member of the Office’s Appellate Division. By the end of the semester, students will have learned an effective real-world approach to handling appeals and will have developed a general understanding of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania. Though obviously focusing on criminal appellate law, the skills learned in this class also can be applied to general appellate practice, to criminal trial practice, and to advocacy in all areas of the law. All students will be required to do field work on these cases for 104 hours throughout the semester (averaging 7.5 hours per week). In addition to doing supervised work on actual cases, students will attend two hours of class per week. In general, about half of each class will be devoted to general issues concerning appellate practice (e.g., strategies for effectively presenting arguments) and about half to discussing the students’ cases to determine what each student believes to be the best method to represent his or her client. Students will be graded upon their performance on the following assignments: a short argument, a complete appellate brief, an oral argument for that brief, and the state equivalent of a cert. petition. Though rarely exercised, a grade can be modified for repeated unpreparedness in class.

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