Capital Defense Internships and Jobs

The following are internship and job opportunities for law students and recent graduates in offices around the country that are engaged in the defense of death row inmates or capitally-charged defendants. The information provided below is submitted by the offices listed. The Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic cannot vouch for the reliability of the information submitted by these offices or the quality of the experience you may have as an intern or employee at any of these offices. As with any such opportunities, we encourage you to speak with other students who have worked at the offices in which you are interested, and gather as much information as you can from colleagues and mentors before accepting a position.

Please check back frequently, as new information is posted as we receive it. To submit, remove, or revise a posting, please send an email to ffanara@clinical.law.berkeley.edu.

The following list contains Summer 2018 Internship Opportunities and Year-Round Internship Opportunities in the Bay Area.

Summer 2018 Internship Opportunities

Arizona

The Arizona Capital Representation Project (“Project”) is Arizona ‘s only non-profit capital defense resource center. The Project directly represents indigent inmates who are challenging their convictions and death sentences in state and federal court. The Project also provides training seminars, resource materials and consultation to capital defense attorneys representing clients at every legal stage from pretrial through clemency proceedings. The Project accepts full-time interns during the summer and part-time interns during the school year. Duties of the intern may include investigating capital cases, researching and writing on capital litigation issues, fund-raising for the Project, coordinating capital defense training seminars and consulting with clients at the state prison. The internship is open to 2Ls and 3Ls who have demonstrated an interest in public service, human rights, and/or social justice issues. Prior coursework in criminal law is preferred. Interested students should send a resume, writing sample and cover letter to Emily Skinner at emily@azcapitalproject.org. We accept applications on a rolling basis.  For further information, please visit azcapitalproject.org.

The Capital Habeas Unit of the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona has a satellite office in Salt Lake City which provides representation for six of the eight inmates currently sentenced to death in the state of Utah. The office’s mission is to ensure the right to effective assistance of counsel–as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Criminal Justice Act–to those who are unable to afford retained counsel and other necessary defense services. Students who work in the Capital Habeas Unit will have the opportunity to contribute to this mission while they develop their legal research and writing skills. They may contribute to appellate briefs, and may have the opportunity to assist with the representation of clients who are under an immediate warrant of execution, as well as conducting specific research tasks. Applicants must have a demonstrated commitment to indigent defense, along with strong research and writing skills. For consideration, please submit a cover letter, resume, and legal writing sample to David Christensen at david_christensen@fd.org.  We fill positions on a rolling basis. For additional information, please email Mr. Christensen or call (801) 524-6043.

California

The Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defender for the Eastern District of California, located in Sacramento, offers full-time internships for law students.  The CHU represents California death row inmates in federal court habeas corpus proceedings.  Students may perform legal research, review documents, draft pleadings, and assist in investigation. The duration of the internship is 10 weeks and is unpaid.  1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls are all welcome to apply; assignments will vary with background and experience.  Preference is given to students with a demonstrated commitment to capital defense, post-conviction work, and/or indigent criminal defense. Applications each year will be accepted beginning in November and through the end of February. To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, two references and a writing sample to Lindsay_Bennett@fd.org or David_Harshaw@fd.org.

The Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California offers full-time, unpaid summer clerkships for law students. Over the course of ten weeks, law students will work closely with lawyers who are challenging their clients’ death sentences in state and federal habeas proceedings. Summer law clerks help write petitions and district court and appellate briefs. They also attend federal court trials and hearings. Interested students should email a cover letter, resume, brief writing sample, and unofficial transcript to Margo_Rocconi@fd. org, Susel_Carrillo_Orellana@fd.org and Andrea_Yamsuan@fd.org. Strong research and writing skills are mandatory; special preference is given to students with a demonstrated commitment to social justice issues. Hiring decisions are made on a rolling basis, and the office is currently accepting applications from 1Ls and 2Ls.

Community Resource Initiative is a collectively run investigation office and resource center.  We build narratives to challenge the death penalty, improve the standard of care and advocate for the value of human life.  We collaborate with families and communities impacted by the judicial system to facilitate safety, growth and resilience. CRI’s internship program offers an active, hands on investigative research internship to self-starting interns who are interested in immersing themselves in human rights investigation within the legal defense field.  Interns will be asked to research issues related to mental health, genealogy, neighborhood effects on children, and adverse childhood experiences. Their work will be used to support CRI’s casework. This internship is unpaid and available for credit.  Applicants should be working toward a degree. If interested please email a curriculum vitae and letter of interest which includes your thoughts on the death penalty as currently applied in the United States to michelle.gaudet@gmail.com. 

The Office of the State Public Defender, located in downtown Oakland, offers bright, energetic, and committed law students the opportunity to participate in a 10-week summer internship from June until August. OSPD has an exclusive focus on death penalty cases, and represents more than 130 people on California’s death row. OSPD litigates these cases both on appeal and habeas corpus. Summer interns will work under the close supervision of staff attorneys. Students may be assigned to assist at any stage of post-conviction litigation in state court. Responsibilities may include: legal research and writing, conducting research in non-legal subject matters (e.g. psychiatry, psychology, forensic pathology), organizing documents, preparing internal practice guides in substantive legal areas; drafting memos and legal pleadings; and participating in field investigations. OSPD has a policy against assigning primarily menial tasks to interns. Summer interns will also attend a week’s worth of formal training at the beginning of the summer with the interns from our sister agencies: the Habeas Corpus Resources Center, and the California Appellate Project. Interns will also attend informal training offered throughout the summer. Interns are encouraged to attend oral argument at the California Supreme Court and other courts. During the summer, students are also given a tour of San Quentin State Prison. To be considered for our internship program, a student must have excellent research and writing skills and a strong interest in capital litigation. A strong preference will be given to students who have completed their second year of study and courses in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Evidence. The internship is unpaid. Please include the following in the application: A letter of interest, resume, writing sample and two references. Please submit via e-mail to: InternProgram@ospd.ca.gov. Please email InternProgram@ospd.ca.gov with any further questions.

The office of the Santa Clara County Alternate Public Defender located in San Jose, California offers full time unpaid summer clerkships for law students. Over the course of the summer, students will work closely with a capital trial team (two lawyers, an investigator, paralegal and mitigation specialist) on a capital trial case involving international mitigation and forensic science. Students may perform legal research, draft briefs, assist in investigation, courtroom observation and assist with witness coordination. Strong research and writing skills are essential. The trial is expected to begin in the Spring and will likely be in progress during the internship. This is an excellent opportunity for students interested in trial practice and courtroom experience. Students with a background or interest in science are especially encouraged to apply. Students should send a resume, writing sample and two references to jessica.delgado@ado.sccgov.org.

District of Columbia

The ABA Death Penalty Due Process Review Project hires law students for both academic year and summer internships. Applications are considered on a rolling basis and start/end dates are flexible.  The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional association in the world, with more than 400,000 members. The ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public. The mission of the ABA is to be the national representative of the legal profession, serving the public and the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the law. The ABA’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project (“Project”) conducts research and educates the public and decision-makers on the operation of capital jurisdictions’ death penalty laws and processes in order to promote fairness and accuracy in death penalty systems. The Project encourages adoption of the ABA’s Protocols on the Fair Administration of the Death Penalty; assists state, federal, and international stakeholders on death penalty issues; and collaborates with other individuals and organizations to develop new initiatives to support reform of death penalty processes. Through creation and support of the Project, the ABA recognizes that it is incumbent upon lawyers – as a profession – to ensure that we are carrying out our work justly and competently, particularly when a life is at stake. The Project is housed within the ABA’s Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice (“CRSJ”), which was created in 1966 to provide leadership within the ABA and the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties, and social justice. The Section fulfills that role by raising and addressing often complex and difficult civil rights and civil liberties issues in a changing and diverse society; and ensuring that protection of individual rights remains a focus of legal and policy decisions. Law clerks will be responsible for conducting legal research and outreach for major updates on the state Death Penalty Assessments, ABA amicus curiae briefs in death penalty cases, and other Project Initiatives related to capital punishment and criminal justice reform. Law clerks also will likely draft correspondence, legislative proposals, public education materials, blog posts summarizing legal developments, and even work on new ABA policy statements and reports related to the death penalty. Attendance at and writing briefing memos on relevant hearings, conferences, and/or oral arguments will be encouraged. Law clerks are encouraged to attend and participate in Project meetings or events, as well as those of CRSJ. The Project is small and relies greatly on the contributions of law clerks and interns to complete its work, however there may be also opportunities to work on other non-death penalty related projects for CRSJ, if the law clerk is interested. Ideal applicants are current law students or LLM candidates who possess strong research and writing skills, are able to independently handle demanding assignments, and have a demonstrated interest in the death penalty, criminal justice, civil rights, and/or public policy advocacy. We look for applicants who are committed to public interest law upon graduation and have already completed at least one year of law school. The Project staff would be happy to assist candidates with obtaining course credit or externship credit for their contributions. Internships are available year-round and applications are accepted until positions are filled. Candidates should email a resume, a brief writing sample (less than 10 pages), and a cover letter detailing the candidate’s interest in working for the Project to: Misty Thomas, Director, at dueprocess@americanbar.org. The cover letter should also include the days and hours during the week that the candidate is available to work.  For more information, visit http://www.americanbar.org/dueprocess.

The American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project was created in 1986. In the past 30 years, the Project has worked to raise awareness about the lack of representation available to death row prisoners, to address this urgent need by recruiting competent volunteer attorneys, and to offer these volunteers training and assistance. The Project also works toward systemic changes in the criminal justice system that would assure those individuals facing a possible death sentence are represented at all stages of the proceedings, from trial through clemency, by qualified, adequately compensated counsel. The Project’s Legal Internship Program gives law students the opportunity to play a significant role in the day-to-day work of the Project.  Internship projects may include:

  1. Legal research: Legal interns conduct legal research on a variety of topics related to capital punishment and representation to assist the Director and staff attorney in their work.
  2. Policy research: The Project promotes systemic change in the capital defense system. Legal interns research state and federal statutory law in relation to the appointment of counsel, standards, compensation, and procedure.
  3. Case summaries: The Project recruits volunteer lawyers to represent indigent prisoners on death row. Legal interns research the cases of unrepresented prisoners and prepare summaries for potential volunteers.
  4. Attorney Resources: The Project maintains a library of online resources for attorneys representing capital defendants. Legal interns assist with the maintenance and development of these resources, including an ongoing publication that summarizes all court opinions citing to the ABA Guidelines.
  5. Prisoner letters: The Project receives hundreds of letters from inmates requesting assistance. Legal interns assist with responding to these requests and locating outside resources for prisoners that the Project is unable to assist.
  6. Newsletter: The Project publishes a quarterly newsletter that is distributed to thousands of contacts throughout the legal community. Interns propose and write content for the Project Press.
  7. Other duties as assigned: Interns are encouraged to explore areas of interest to them while interning at the Project, and creativity and initiative are highly valued. Interns are expected to be self-starters, motivated, and interested in contributing significantly to the Project and its mission.

The Legal Internship Program is for a law student for a minimum of one semester or one summer. Interns work a flexible part-time schedule during the fall and spring semesters (15-20 hours) and full-time during the summer. This is an unpaid position, but students may seek academic credit. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, short writing sample, and three references electronically to sylvia.krohn@americanbar.org.

The mission of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is to end the death penalty in the US and supporting efforts worldwide. Specifically, legal interns will support the organization in implementing its national advocacy campaign to end the death penalty as well as in supporting local efforts to urge passage of legislation or other policy changes that would reform, repeal or otherwise reduce executions and death sentences. Duties include substantive legal and legislative research and writing. Legal interns perform legal and policy research; draft memoranda on current law, proposed legislation, and recent state and federal judicial opinions; research and write testimony for legislative committees; and conduct research and write on case-specific initiatives as well as issue advocacy campaigns. Applicants should note in his or her cover letter any special interest or experience in issues relevant to the position, including past anti-death penalty or broader criminal justice reform knowledge and experience as well as any direct experience working on capital or criminal justice cases. Qualifications: Currently enrolled in law school, or recently graduated, bar pending; excellent research and writing skills; attention to detail; ability to draft succinct and comprehensive legal memoranda; knowledge of the legislative process and political campaigns; and working knowledge and familiarity with social media tools including Facebook and Twitter are a plus. Please submit resume, cover letter and legal writing sample along with three references (ideally including a reference from someone who can comment on your legal writing and research abilities) to Delphine Nihoul at delphine@ncadp.org. Please include LEGAL INTERN in the subject line. Note your availability including preferred start and end dates as well as any limitations you may have to working regular full-time hours.  No phone calls please. Positions are available year-round and applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. The National Coalition is an equal opportunity employer, and people of color, women and LGBTQ persons are encouraged to apply.

Georgia

The Georgia Resource Center (GRC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit law office in Atlanta dedicated to providing free, high-quality representation to death-sentenced men and women in their state and federal habeas and clemency proceedings. GRC is responsible for ensuring that all of Georgia’s death-sentenced prisoners have meaningful and vigorous representation at this critical stage of death penalty case review. Interns directly assist in all aspects of GRC’s work, including interviewing witnesses, compiling life histories, visiting clients, conducting legal research, and drafting memos and briefs. Interns often have the opportunity to attend court proceedings, such as state-court evidentiary hearings and oral arguments before the Georgia Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We seek highly-motivated, public-interest-oriented law students with a passion for indigent defense and human rights to be our summer interns. Previous experience working with prisoners or individuals with mental health issues is a plus, as is professional experience prior to law school. Applications should be submitted by email info@garesource.org. All applications should include a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and a list of references. Summer legal interns will be hired on a rolling basis beginning in September. For more information about GRC, please visit our website at www.garesource.org.

Located in Atlanta, the Southern Center for Human Rights is one of the nation’s leading organizations devoted to indigent defense and protection of human rights in the criminal justice system. SCHR accepts summer interns to work throughout its practice areas, which include capital representation and civil rights litigation. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. It is suggested, however, that 2Ls get their applications in during September because the positions fill up quickly. Applications from both 1Ls and 2Ls are welcome. Applications should include a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and list of references. They should be submitted by e-mail to Katherine Moss at kmoss@schr.org.  Click here for more information.

Idaho

The Federal Defender Services of Idaho is accepting applications from first-and second-year law students for a summer legal clerkship position with the Capital Habeas Unit for Summer 2018.  The Capital Habeas Unit, located in Boise, Idaho, represents individuals under a state sentence of death in Idaho, California and Nevada. Law Interns assist attorneys and investigators at all stages of client representation, including interviewing clients and witnesses, reviewing and organizing discovery materials, researching federal constitutional and criminal law issues, and investigating and preparing cases for pleadings, hearings and/or trial. Law Interns will have opportunities throughout their internship to observe criminal trials and hearings of Federal Defender staff. This is an unpaid internship that begins on June 4, 2018 and ends on August 10, 2018. Housing is not provided. The Capital Habeas Unit is located in Boise, Idaho, and is comprised of three assistant federal defenders, a research and writing attorney, and three investigators. Working in a smaller office allows our interns to get one on one time with the attorneys and to be extremely involved with the case teams. Boise is a small, but culturally rich community with amazing outdoor activities and events during the summer. To apply, please forward a letter of interest, resume, a short writing sample, and two references to Deborah Czuba at Deborah_A_Czuba@fd.org. Students are encouraged to apply any time between October 1, 2017 and January 31, 2018. However, earlier applications are usually the most successful. Limited positions are available. People of color and other minorities underrepresented in the legal profession are especially encouraged to apply.

Louisiana

The Capital Appeals Project (CAP) and the Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) are looking for interns for the summer of 2018! The Capital Appeals Project (CAP) is a non-profit law office based in New Orleans, Louisiana that provides capital appellate and post-conviction representation to indigent people on Louisiana’s death row.  CAP is one of the leading death penalty appeals offices in the country, and has represented clients in several recent cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, including Kennedy v. Louisiana, Snyder v. Louisiana, and Montejo v. Louisiana. CAP provides high-quality representation in the state and federal courts throughout Louisiana, and acts as a resource to public defenders and criminal defense lawyers across the state. CAP attorneys have successfully represented clients in state district courts, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court, which in turn has improved the quality and standards of representation for indigent capital defendants in Louisiana. We also represent a number of non-capital juvenile clients in proceedings implementing the recent Supreme Court decisions which limit life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders. The Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) is a non-profit organization that works in tandem with CAP in seeking the humane, fair, and equal treatment of individuals in the criminal justice system. Its multi-pronged approach to change includes civil litigation, community outreach, and other advocacy focusing on inhumane conditions of confinement, prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias, effective representation, and the ultimate abolition of the death penalty. PJI is actively litigating the extreme, inhumane heat conditions on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the inadequate medical care for all inmates at the prison, and the state’s lethal injection procedures. Through PJI, we also represent death sentenced inmates in federal habeas corpus proceedings, and non-capital clients in clemency proceedings. CAP and PJI work together under a single Executive Director, and a shared staff of twenty one. This unique structure allows direct representation to inform systemic challenges – and vice versa – and provides the flexibility to identify and pursue change where it is most needed. Both CAP and PJI offer internships during the summer and throughout the year.  Each intern is assigned to a senior attorney for supervision and mentorship. CAP interns work on individual cases in appeal, post-conviction or federal habeas proceedings, assisting attorneys, investigators and other staff.  Depending on the caseload of their supervising attorney, interns may also have the opportunity to participate in PJI cases. Work includes visiting clients on death row, reviewing trial records, legal research and writing including preparing motions and briefs, and assisting with investigation, reviewing and collecting records, and conducting factual analysis in cases. The work demands rigorous attention to detail and creating thinking and offers students closely supervised opportunity to learn the intricacies of death penalty jurisprudence, as well as criminal, appellate and federal habeas law. PJI interns work on the ongoing civil and conditions of confinement litigation, which can include drafting motions or responses, visiting clients and witnesses, and preparing for trials or appeals. The internship begins with a training program, and we provide a program of weekly brown bag lunches where interns have the opportunity to learn from and meet some of the top public interest lawyers and workers from other organizations around the city, as well as our own staff. Please apply with a cover letter, resume, a writing sample and three references to Caroline Tillman at ctillman@thejusticecenter.org. Applications are accepted and processed on a rolling basis.

The Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana (CPCPL) represents indigent, death-sentence men and women in Louisiana.  CPCPL teams provide direct representation in capital habeas proceedings.  Through investigation, discovery, and our work with experts, we uncover exculpatory and mitigating facts that have ultimately resulted in new trials, exonerations, and pleas to lesser sentences.  Since 2011, CPCPL has won two cases in the United States Supreme Court and has reached a number of negotiated settlements. The CPCPL internship program gives volunteer interns diverse work experiences, ranging from legal research and writing to in-the-field investigation.  In addition to summer internships, CPCPL also accepts interns during the fall and spring.  Applicants may apply at any time and should email a resume, cover letter detailing why they would like to intern at CPCPL, a writing sample, and a list of three references to Jane Eggers, jeggers@cpcpl.org, or send the letter, writing sample, and list of references to Jane Eggers, Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana, 1340 Poydras Street, Suite 1700, New Orleans, LA, 70112.

The Louisiana Capital Assistance Center is soliciting applications for summer law clerks. The LCAC represents indigent defendants in capital cases – primarily at trial, but also on direct appeal, in state post-conviction and in federal habeas proceedings.  We represent clients in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and in federal cases. In recent years, the LCAC has been at the cutting edge of capital defense litigation, particularly in areas such as prosecutorial misconduct, racial and religious discrimination, adequate indigent defense funding and the capital prosecution of those with serious mental impairments.   In the context of its casework, the LCAC pursues impact litigation in critical areas so as to advance the position of indigent capital defendants more generally. The LCAC emphasizes excellence and creativity in capital practice as well as making the client the center of all efforts in the case. Summer law clerks assist staff attorneys and mitigation specialists in all aspects of our work. Depending on what needs to be done in our cases at a given time, interns should expect to do several of the following tasks while they are at LCAC:

  • locate, obtain, organize and process relevant records and other documents
  • conduct legal research and draft pleadings
  • read and digest transcripts
  • gather and analyze statistical data
  • conduct social science and other research
  • monitor court proceedings
  • participate in case strategy sessions
  • visit and interview clients
  • locate and interview witnesses
  • assist in locating and preparing expert witnesses

As many of LCAC’s clients are in prisons or jails outside of New Orleans, our interns are often asked to travel with attorneys, investigators, and other interns throughout Louisiana and occasionally into Texas, Mississippi, and Florida. During the summer, the LCAC provides interns with a multiple-day orientation and training program. Interns gain substantive background knowledge on LCAC’s work, including the legal and procedural aspects of death penalty trial and appellate processes. Additional training sessions include brown-bag lunchtime talks with senior staff from the LCAC and other organizations throughout the summer. The LCAC’s small staff size ensures that interns receive regular supervision and support. Upon completion of their assignments interns review their findings with the attorneys and develop follow-up action plans. Applicants for the summer program should send the following materials to Gabe Newland, at gnewland@thejusticecenter.org, with “Summer Law Clerk Application” in the subject line:

  • A resume 
  • A cover letter detailing their interest in capital defense work
  • A writing sample (a non-legal writing sample is acceptable)
  • Two references

Applicants are encouraged to apply early as applications are considered on a rolling basis. Law students in our summer program often receive work study or other financial support from their schools. Although LCAC pays for business-related travel expenses, we are generally unable to provide financial assistance to our interns.

Maryland

Advancing Real Change (ARC), Inc. provides comprehensive life history investigation for indigent clients facing the most severe penalties. We currently work on death penalty and juvenile life cases. Those who face criminal charges in our court systems confront tremendous dehumanization, often presented as nothing more than their crimes. The goal of life history investigation – often referred to as mitigation investigation – is to break this narrative by developing an accurate, multi-dimensional account of the accused’s life, including investigating the circumstances of the offense. ARC, Inc. is based in Baltimore, MD and works on cases throughout the country. We are seeking an intern to assist with gathering, reviewing and summarizing historical documents, conducting legal research, and providing administrative support. Start/end dates are flexible, and the internship may be full- or part-time, with a minimum of 20 hours per week. To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to info@advancechange.org.

The Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland handles a steady stream of federal capital trials. Summer interns will likely work on both capital and non-capital cases. Interested students should send a resume and cover letter to Jim Wyda, Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender, 100 South Charles Street, Tower II Suite 1100, Baltimore MD 21201. Internships are generally unpaid. Hiring decisions are made on a rolling basis. The office also accepts internship applications for short periods of time outside of summer months (i.e. winter break, etc.).

Nevada

The Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) of the Office of the Federal Public Defender, District of Nevada, is currently accepting applications from students with a demonstrated interest in capital litigation, criminal defense, or public interest work.  The CHU represents capital defendants from Nevada, California, Arizona, and Texas. We are offering a ten-week unpaid internship to first and second year law students.  During the summer, students will work with a dedicated team of attorneys and investigators assisting them in:  (1) researching and writing arguments for capital pleadings; (2) investigating client cases for newly discovered evidence, Brady evidence, and facts concerning the ineffectiveness of counsel; and (3) visiting clients on death row in Ely, Nevada.  Students may also attend evidentiary hearings in state and/or federal court.  Interested applicants should send a letter of interest, resume, list of references, unofficial transcript, and a representative writing sample to Brad D. Levenson at brad_levenson@fd.org. The deadline to apply is February 28, 2018.

New York

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund hires summer interns in their Criminal Justice Project, which includes representation of capital and non-capital clients. Most of these cases are in the habeas stage. The internship is unpaid and lasts 10 weeks. Students assist with all aspects of cases, including legal research, memo writing, drafting portions of briefs, working on clemency issues, developing claims, and conducting investigation. 1Ls and 2Ls are welcome to apply; applications should include a cover letter, resume, list of references, and a writing sample. Decisions are made on a rolling basis, but are generally made between October and February. See their website for the addresses to which applications should be sent.

North Carolina

Each summer, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation hosts up to four full-time law student interns. Each year, we receive rave reviews from our summer interns. Former interns consistently remark on the diversity of opportunities, the rigorous intellectual environment, and the collegiality of our office. In recent summers, law student interns have visited clients, traveled across the state interviewing witnesses and jurors, worked on clemency cases, assisted with research and writing of direct appeal and post-conviction claims, attended capital trials, and assisted at evidentiary hearings. We eagerly recruit both 1Ls and 2Ls to fill our summer intern positions. Because of the nature of the work our students perform, we typically do not allow split summers and we prefer that all interns begin work on the same date.  Further, we ask each intern to commit to a 10 week program, usually beginning the first work-day of June. Most summers, CDPL is able to offer interns monetary compensation for their work through the Weston Fenhagen Fellowship. Students interested in a summer internship should provide the following by January 31: 1) Cover letter clearly articulating the applicant’s interest in death penalty defense or criminal defense work 2) Current resume 3) Writing sample of 10 pages or less 4) Phone numbers and email addresses for three references, including at least one person familiar with your skills and abilities in a professional setting. We prefer that applications be submitted electronically whenever possible. Applications should be submitted through our website, http://www.cdpl.org/internships/. Applications are considered on a rolling basis with all hiring decisions made by Feb. 28th each year. Contact will@cdpl.org with specific questions. CDPL complies with the letter and spirit of all federal, state, and local employment discrimination laws and does not discriminate based on race, age, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, family responsibility, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status or disability.

Ohio

The Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) in the Columbus, Ohio branch of the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Ohio offers summer and school-year externship opportunities.  The CHU represents inmates on Ohio’s death row in all levels of federal court litigation and also argues for clemency before the Ohio Parole Board and to Ohio’s governor.  The legal work concerns the exciting and challenging intersection of constitutional law, death-penalty jurisprudence, and habeas and civil-rights litigation; factual investigation involves digging into records and witnesses related to clients’ social histories, including their upbringing, education, and other factors relevant to their development.  The CHU works closely with experts in a variety of areas, including neurology, psychology, psychiatry, forensics, DNA, mental-health, addiction, and intellectual disability.  The office operates in teams of attorneys, investigators, and support staff to tackle this demanding and sobering work.  Externs work closely with these teams to assist in both legal and factual research and drafting related to the clients’ cases.  CHU teams rely on externs’ assistance on real projects for real clients and aim to involve the externs as much as possible from start to finish on a project.  For more information about the program, please visit our website at:  http://www.fpd-ohs.org/law.htm. The CHU seeks externs with sound judgment, the ability to work independently, excellent research and writing skills, and a strong commitment to indigent defense and saving clients’ lives.  While full-time externs are preferred, students who will have completed their first year of law school may apply to extern for a minimum 20 hours per week during the summer and for a minimum of 12 hours per week during the school year.  The positions are unpaid, but externs are free to seek funding through work-study or other public-interest programs, as well as class hours or other applicable credit at their law schools.  To apply electronically, send a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and transcript to attorneys Erin Barnhart (erin_barnhart@fd.org) and Justin Thompson (justin_thompson@fd.org).  To apply via hard copy, mail these materials to:  CHU Extern Coordinators, Federal Public Defender––Southern District of Ohio, One Columbus, 10 West Broad Street, Suite 1020, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3469.  The CHU considers applications on a rolling basis until positions are filled, and likely will hold interviews for Summer 2018 positions in February 2018.  Applicants offered an externship will be subject to a background check as required under the current policy for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Pennsylvania

The Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Community Defender for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is pleased to accept applications for our summer internship program from law students interested in public service and criminal law. The Capital Habeas Unit represents death-sentenced prisoners in post-conviction proceedings in Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions. Through a multi-faceted team approach, the Capital Habeas Unit provides its clients with the highest level of legal representation, while priding itself on treating its clients with dignity and respect. Over the course of the summer, students will:

· Draft motions, memoranda, and briefs.
· Research forensic issues, including DNA, fingerprints, hair and fiber, and ballistics.
· Assist in factual investigation and develop case strategy by reviewing and digesting medical and institutional records and transcripts of prior proceedings.
· Assist in investigation of witnesses.
· Meet with clients on death row to discuss their cases.
· Observe hearings and oral arguments.
· Substantive training on all stages and facets of post-conviction litigation will be presented by the Capital Habeas Unit.

The internship is open current 1Ls and 2Ls. Qualified students are encouraged to apply electronically by submitting a cover letter, resume, and transcript (unofficial is satisfactory), to Sonali Shahi, Assistant Federal Defender, at Sonali_Shahi@fd.org. Applicants should highlight their commitment to public interest, any background or specialty in psychology, and advocacy experience. Interviews and hiring will be on a rolling basis.  Applicants are encouraged to submit their materials before January 1, 2018. The internship is unpaid; however, we will work with schools and other resources to meet the criteria for work study, course credit, or other support. Students are expected to devote 40 hours per week for a ten-week program beginning May 29, 2018. The Capital Habeas Unit  is an equal opportunity employer and complies with all applicable laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital/parental status, gender identity, gender expression or any other status or classification protected by federal law. We encourage students of all backgrounds to apply.

The Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh represents individuals in Federal court charged with Federal crimes. Its Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) represents individuals who have been convicted of capital crimes in state and Federal court and who seek post-conviction relief in Federal court. This office offers a 10-week summer program for second-year law students who possess excellent research and writing skills and demonstrate an interest in Federal indigent defense and/or capital habeas litigation. The positions are unpaid. Responsibilities may include legal research, assisting in drafting motions, drafting memoranda, reviewing records, documents and transcripts, assisting with investigations and observing court proceedings. Prior course work in criminal law and procedure would be helpful. To apply, please forward a (1) cover letter; (2) resume; (3) short writing sample; (4) complete list of law school classes; (5) current GPA and class ranking; and (6) two references to: paw_employment@fd.org or via regular mail to: Michael Novara First Assistant Federal Public Defender Western District of Pennsylvania 1001 Liberty Avenue, Suite 1500 Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Successful applicants will be subject to a background fingerprint check as required under the current policy for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. This office also offers year-round externship opportunities for second and third-year law students, and inquiries can also be made regarding same to the above.

South Carolina

The Capital Trial Division of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense is an office charged with meeting the high standards of capital defense demanded by federal and state constitutions. We are looking for interns that are interested in criminal defense and/or working with indigent clients from all backgrounds who come from families with a history of poverty, abuse, and mental health problems. Throughout the course of the summer, you will be working directly with the attorneys in our office. You will be:

  • Meeting and interviewing clients, making sure they have all the necessary information to answer their various legal questions

  • Meeting and interviewing potential mitigation witnesses to assist the defense team in putting together a comprehensive life history of the client

  • Researching and preparing memos for attorneys concerning particular legal questions, such as the viability of a particular defense or admissibility of a particular piece of evidence

  • Investigating data necessary for some systemic challenges to the Death Penalty (which will include going to clerks’ offices around the state and gathering information on all jury strikes and/or murder cases for the last decade)

  • Attending court and assisting as necessary

This is an unpaid internship but students will be reimbursed for all travel expenses they incur including mileage at the federal rate. Interested students should submit a cover letter and resume by e-mail to Boyd Young, Deputy Director at byoung@sccid.sc.gov. We accept applications on a rolling basis until spots are filled.

Tennessee

The Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender (OPCD) in Nashville provides legal representation to indigent death-sentenced inmates in post-conviction and other collateral proceedings throughout the state of Tennessee. The OPCD invites law students to apply for full-time, unpaid summer internships for a ten-week period. The OPCD is flexible in establishing work schedules that are tailored to the interests and availability of the individual interns. Our interns assist attorneys in all stages of client representation including:

  • researching constitutional, criminal and civil rights issues;

  • interviewing witnesses and visiting clients on death row;

  • reviewing and organizing records and discovery materials;

  • consulting with expert witnesses; and

  • preparing cases for pleadings, evidentiary hearings and appellate arguments.

Interns will also have to opportunity to attend court proceedings throughout the state of Tennessee, tour the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory, and participate in trainings on capital punishment, criminal defense and career development. People of color and other minorities underrepresented in the legal profession are especially encouraged to apply. Interested students should e-mail a cover letter addressing your interest in capital defense, a resume, an unofficial law school transcript (if available), and a brief writing sample to Andrew Harris (HarrisA@tnPCDO.net) and Jonathan King (KingJ@tnPCDO.net). Applicants are encouraged to apply early as internships are competitive and filled on a rolling basis.

The Capital Habeas Unit of the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville offers full-time, unpaid summer internships for law students.  The CHU represents Tennessee death row inmates in federal habeas corpus proceedings.  Interns will perform legal research, draft substantive legal documents, and assist in investigation.  Interns will also have exposure to non-capital federal public defense work, in which indigent clients are facing federal criminal charges.  Students may participate in pre-trial motion practice, trial assistance and observation, and legal work related to sentencing.  Dates are flexible and we are willing to host students who intend to split their summers at other organizations.  Assignments will vary with background and experience.  Preference is given to students with a demonstrated commitment to indigent criminal defense and/or public interest work.  Applications may be submitted at anytime, however, we encourage students to apply as soon as possible as we review applications on a rolling basis.  To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, law school transcript, and writing sample to Andrew C. Brandon, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Middle District of Tennessee, 810 Broadway, Suite 200, Nashville, TN 37203 or andrew_brandon@fd.org.

Texas

The Bexar County Public Defender’s Office represents clients on direct appeal and in petitions of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. Student interns perform legal research and writing, and investigation. Interns also observe trials and hearings and visit the local jail and may have contact with clients. Year-round and summer internship opportunities are available. The internship is unpaid, but the office is flexible in the schedule and duration of the internship. Rising 2Ls are encouraged to apply; the office is looking for interns with a demonstrated interest in criminal law, indigent defense, or related areas. Applicants should send a cover letter, resume, recent writing sample, and a list of at least two references to Lori Olenick Rodriguez, Senior Assistant Public Defender, Bexar County Public Defender’s Office, Heritage Plaza, 410 South Main, Suite 214, San Antonio, TX 78204. Applications are considered as received. For more information about the office or the internship, please feel free to contact Lori at lorirodriguez@bexar.org. 

The Gulf Region Advocacy Center (GRACE) is a 501(c)(3) charity that represents indigent clients in charged with capital crimes at all stages of litigation in state and federal courts. GRACE also does training and consulting for other capital defense teams nationwide. Most interns spend a large amount of time collecting records and digesting documents. More experienced interns may help with research and writing motions. If there is a trial during the internship, an intern will mostly likely be involved in preparing for trial and providing support for the lawyers and mitigation specialists. The office accepts rising 2Ls and 3Ls as interns. Internships are unpaid. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and may be submitted by email to staff@gracelaw.org and MatthewH@GraceLaw.org or by mail to Gulf Region Advocacy Center, 2307 Union Street, Houston TX 77007. For more information, contact Matthew Hefti at MatthewH@GraceLaw.org or call (713)-869-4722.

The Office of Capital and Forensic Writs (OCFW) seeks bright and motivated law students interested in capital defense for full-time summer clerkships, term-time intern/externships, pro bono volunteer law clerks, and postgraduate fellowships. The OCFW is a statewide public defender office located in Austin, Texas that represents death-sentenced persons in their state post-conviction litigation.  Our office represents a substantial majority of persons sentenced to death in Texas in state post-conviction proceedings, and is committed to client-centered and excellent post-conviction representation. This is an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in Texas. As post-conviction counsel, attorneys and clerks at the OCFW have the privilege of investigating constitutional violations that have occurred at the trial level, including issues at both the guilt/innocence and punishment phases of trial.  Depending on what needs to be done in our cases, clerks should expect to do several of the following tasks: locate and interview witnesses; conduct legal research and draft pleadings; locate, obtain, and organize records; read and digest transcripts; and visit and interview clients. We expect our interns to be committed, work hard, have fun, and learn a great deal. As OCFW’s clients and witnesses are located outside of the Austin area, our interns are often asked to travel throughout Texas.  Preferred qualifications include a demonstrated interest in indigent defense, knowledge of criminal and constitutional law, excellent research and writing skills, commitment to culturally competent representation, and interest in working with diverse populations.  Spanish-speaking ability is also a plus.  People of color and persons from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the legal profession are especially encouraged to apply. Clerkships and fellowships are unpaid, however the OCFW will work with applicants to obtain academic credit, funding through their law school, or funding from other sources.  To apply, please email a letter of interest and resume to Ashley.Steele@ocfw.texas.gov. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

The Texas Defender Service (TDS) seeks talented law students committed to capital defense work to serve as summer law clerks in its Austin and Houston offices.  TDS attorneys work to ensure that defendants charged with capital murder receive the best possible representation at the pre-trial, trial, and post-conviction stage of the case.  TDS lawyers and mitigation specialists regularly consult with defense teams on trial strategies, legal briefing, mitigation investigation, preparing to present or challenge forensic evidence and expert witnesses, voir dire, and other issues that arise during the pre-trial and trial stages. Additionally, TDS lawyers and mitigation specialists work on post-conviction litigation and consulting, and attorneys often act as lead counsel in federal habeas corpus litigation.  TDS also has a policy division committed to achieving critical reforms in the Texas criminal justice system.  To elevate the level of defense representation across the state, TDS regularly organizes and provides trainings to attorneys, mitigation specialists, and investigators in Texas. TDS seeks summer law students for full-time internships to assist in all aspects of TDS’s work.  Summer law interns must be capable of performing both high-level legal research and briefing along with ground-level intensive investigative work.  When possible, students will also attend local trainings, trials and oral arguments.  Students will receive training on how to conduct mitigation investigation in capital cases both in preparation for trial and post-conviction briefing.  They will receive regular feedback throughout the summer on both written and investigative work. Applicants must be enrolled in a J.D. or L.L.M. program.  Preference will be given to 2L students, but TDS will consider applications from 1Ls.  Preference will also be given to students enrolled in capital or criminal defense clinics, and to students with fluency in Spanish. Candidates must possess excellent oral and written communication skills, interpersonal skills, and the ability to work well with others in a team-based approach.  Representing inmates charged with the death penalty or who are already on death row is vital and fascinating work, but it is generally not popular.  TDS requires interns to have a firm belief in the need for unflinching, partisan advocacy on behalf of all indigent persons facing or under a sentence of death.  Internships are unpaid, but TDS will provide any necessary documentation or assistance in applications for scholarships or fellowships. To apply: Please send a cover letter, resume, transcript, writing sample, a list of two references, and your preferred location (Austin or Houston).  Please send the above materials to: Naomi Fenwick nfenwick@texasdefender.org 510 South Congress Street Suite 510, Austin, TX 78704. The deadline to apply is 4/1/2018.

The Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases represents clients charged with capital crimes at the trial level in approximately 163 counties throughout Texas.  Currently we have offices in Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Midland, Burnet, Clute, Wichita Falls, and Terrell.  Interns are utilized for a wide variety of tasks, including collecting and digesting records and documents; research; drafting motions; assisting attorneys, mitigators and investigators with client and witness interviews; trial preparation assistance; and, team support during trial. Internships are unpaid.  Applications are accepted and reviewed at any time.  Applications may be submitted by e-mail to RKeith@rpdo.org or by mail to the Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases, P. O. Box 2097, Lubbock, Texas 79408.  For more information feel free to visit our website or contact Edward Ray Keith, Jr. at (806) 775-1520. 

Virginia

The Capital Defender Office of Northern Virginia (CDO) has been providing quality representation to impoverished defendants facing the death penalty since 2003.  The CDO is charged with handling all facets of trial representation for capital cases arising in Virginia’s 22 northern jurisdictions, comprising one of the most active death penalty regions in the Commonwealth.  The CDO seeks highly motivated law students with a commitment to the zealous representation of capital defendants.  Each year, students spend a semester or summer at the CDO completing a variety of assignments under the supervision of experienced staff.  The tasks to be performed are limited only by the ability and willingness of the interns.  Typically, CDO interns research criminal and death penalty law, write legal memoranda, assist in investigating and organizing mitigation evidence, and perform other tasks necessary to aid in the defense of capital clients.  These internships provide an invaluable opportunity to receive direct experience working in the rewarding and challenging field of capital defense.  Interested students should email a resume, transcript, writing sample, and list of references to Daniel Goldman, Deputy Capital Defender, at dgoldman@cdn.idc.virginia.gov, and to Ashley Miller, Office Manager, at amiller@cdn.idc.virginia.gov. The CDO is an equal opportunity employer, equal without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or political affiliation.

The Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center (VCRRC) is a non-profit law firm that represents death row inmates in their state and federal habeas corpus and clemency proceedings. Attorneys at VCRRC also consult with other attorneys who represent inmates sentenced to death in Virginia. The need for quality representation is great in Virginia, which has executed more people than any other State in the nation. Since resumption of executions after Gregg v. Georgia in 1977, Virginia ranks behind only Texas in numbers of state killings. Virginia executed two men in 2017. Because of short deadlines, Virginia also claims the dubious distinction of shortest amount of time from conviction to execution (about 7 years) and the lowest reversal rate (75% of people sentenced to death in Virginia are executed). VCRRC seeks law students eager to contribute to all aspects of post-conviction representation. Because our summer interns do meaningful work on real cases, each summer’s workload is dictated by the needs of our active cases. In the past, students have identified, investigated, researched and drafted the factual and legal bases for the post-conviction claims of death-sentenced inmates in both state and federal courts; participated in investigations and juror interviews; and assisted in public clemency campaigns. As cases demand, interns must be available to work evenings and weekends. Successful applicants will be meticulous researchers and writers, possess excellent interpersonal skills, and have a demonstrated commitment to public service. Budget restrictions prevent us from funding summer positions, so we strongly encourage applicants to seek grants or other financial support. Please send a cover letter explaining why you want to spend your summer working on capital postconviction cases, your résumé, a writing sample, your transcript, and three references. We prefer that at least one reference be a past or current employer. Application materials should be sent to Dawn Davison at ddavison@vcrrc.org.

Year-Round Internship Opportunities in the Bay Area

The California Appellate Project (CAP) in San Francisco assists in the legal representation of the currently more than 600 persons on California’s Death Row. The selection process for interns is ongoing. To apply, please submit a cover letter, a résumé, a writing sample, and the names and telephone numbers of two references familiar with your skills and experience to internships@capsf.org. Intern responsibilities involve working on issues of general importance to capital litigation: reviewing case records; preparing research memoranda, pleadings, briefs, and other legal documents; client relations; case assistance to appointed panel attorneys; case investigation; preparing training and resource materials; digesting recent case decisions; and participating in the development of litigation strategies. We particularly value experience working with people of backgrounds similar to those of our clients and their communities. Since nearly all of the men and women on California’s death row are from deprived backgrounds, and the majority are people of color, we request that applicants relate how their life experience, training, and work history have prepared them to understand and work well with the clients we serve and their communities.

Located in San Francisco and established in 1998, the Habeas Corpus Resource Center (HCRC) is a state judicial branch entity that provides direct legal representation to death row inmates in post-conviction proceedings in state and federal courts in California.  Litigation of a capital habeas corpus proceeding is a complex and time-consuming undertaking.  Counsel appointed to represent death-sentenced prisoners in these proceedings review extensive trial records, conduct and supervise new investigation, and research and prepare voluminous petitions and briefs based on state and federal statutory and constitutional law.  The HCRC has an authorized staff of 86 people, including 34 attorneys.  Additional information about the HCRC can be found on our website at www.hcrc.ca.gov.  Interns assist case teams in all facets of the HCRC’s representation of death row inmates in post-conviction proceedings.  Knowledge of substantive and procedural legal principles of criminal and constitutional law, provisions of the United States and California Constitutions, and the rules of evidence and conduct of proceedings in California courts is helpful but not required.  Aside from a strong set of communication and analytical skills, applicants should possess intellectual agility, excellent writing abilities, acumen for research, and cultural sensitivity, and must be appropriately discreet with confidential information.  Both rising 2Ls and 3Ls are considered for summer internship positions.  Pursuant to California judicial branch policy, interns must be eligible to work in the United States.  Because we are unable to provide compensation to interns at this time, we will work with applicants in obtaining academic credit through their schools for internships.  Applicants may also seek funding through their law school and other sources.  Our summer internship is full-time (40 hours per week) for 10 weeks, beginning – in either the last week of May or the first week of June – with an integrated training with other Bay Area capital defense offices.  The fall and spring semester internships are 16 hours minimum per week for 10 to 12 weeks.  Semester interns are invited to participate in a variety of in-office training programs that regularly occur in our office.  Interns are involved in trainings and other opportunities for skill development throughout their internships. Applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis until all positions are filled.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their materials as soon as possible after the application period begins.

  • Spring internship: Applications are accepted beginning October 1 for the following spring term. Please note that the HCRC will not be offering the internship for the Spring 2018.

  • Summer internship: Applications are accepted beginning September 1 for the following summer term.

  • Fall internship: Applications are accepted beginning March 1 for the following fall term. Please note that the HCRC will not be offering the internship for the Fall 2018.

The Habeas Corpus Resource Center is an equal opportunity employer.  The HCRC believes that a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace culture enhances the performance of our organization and the quality of representation that we provide to a diverse client base.  The HCRC welcomes all applicants, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. Applicants are encouraged to apply via e-mail by submitting the following documents combined into one PDF with the title format “Your Last Name, Your Year in Law School” (e.g., Smith, 2L): (1) a cover letter, (2) your resume, (3) a writing sample (a legal memorandum or excerpt that is no more than seven pages), and (4) the names and telephone numbers of three references familiar with your skills.  In the cover letter, please explain how your life experiences, training, and work experience have prepared you and enhance your ability to work with teams litigating capital habeas corpus proceedings and to work with and understand our clients and their communities. Please e-mail your completed application to internapplications@hcrc.ca.gov with your last name in the subject line.  Qualified candidates whose backgrounds best meet the needs of the HCRC will be invited to an interview either in person or via telephone depending upon the applicant’s location.  Questions regarding the HCRC Internship Program can be submitted to intern-committee2@hcrc.ca.gov.