Criminal Defense Clinic
With Professor Walker Sterling returned from her year-long Fulbright, the Criminal Defense Clinic is once again being co-taught by Professors Walker Sterling and Lasch. The Criminal Defense Clinic (CDC) represents indigent members of Denver’s community who are accused of crimes in municipal, misdemeanor, and county courts in and around the Denver area. Typical cases include assault, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, failure to obey a lawful order from a peace officer, disturbing the peace, and harassment. The Criminal Defense Clinic also represents juvenile clients, and has several juvenile court cases as well.
In Colorado, misdemeanor and municipal cases are jury triable, so the fall 2018 CDC class is gearing up for what their professors call the “trial season,” when the clinic has several trials scheduled each week through the end of the semester. In preparation for trial, the students are writing and filing motions challenging the constitutionality of the statute concerning orders of protection as void for vagueness and an ordinance concerning carrying a dangerous weapon as unconstitutional as applied to a homeless client. CDC students have already won dismissals in a third of their cases, due to their zealous, client-centered advocacy and creative negotiating.
As in past semesters, in an effort to offer clients holistic representation able to address the full range of the needs of the clients the clinic serves, the CDC is also hosting a student intern from the University of Denver School of Social Work. This addition has already made a meaningful and positive effect, allowing clients to access community-based services in a way that student attorneys alone were not able to facilitate.
CDC students continue to encounter many of the major issues affecting the criminal justice system: racial discrimination and police brutality; the criminalization of mental health issues; the workings of the school-to-prison pipeline; and the constant limitations of poverty. As we say so often in the Criminal Defense Clinic, the students are understanding, in many different ways, that it is hard work being poor.
CDC Client Brian Hedden, a documentarian, CDC students James Lutterbie and Ian Schenholm, and CDC Professors Christina Brown-Haugen and Robin Walker Sterling meet after a hearing.