Veteran federal public defender takes helm of new Criminal Defense Clinic
Elana Fogel, a veteran public defender who has practiced at both the state and federal levels, is joining the faculty as a clinical professor of law and inaugural director of its new Criminal Defense Clinic.
As a trial attorney at Federal Defenders of San Diego since 2017, Fogel represented indigent persons accused of criminal offenses in federal court. She earlier served as a public defender in Boston and as a fellow in the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School. A California native, Fogel is a graduate of New York University and NYU School of Law.
“Elana Fogel’s career trajectory has demonstrated her firm commitment to actualizing justice for clients and teaching law students through their experiences as advocates and counselors,” says Clinical Professor Ryke Longest, director of clinical and experiential programs. “Her leadership will create wonderful opportunities for Duke Law students, and strategic support to put science-based criminal defense to work in our community.”
“Elana is committed to creating a clinic that is rooted in the Durham community and responsive to local needs,” adds Clinical Professor Kate Evans, director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic, who led the director search. “I’m thrilled about the experience she brings in state and federal criminal defense and her commitment to working with students on concrete proposals for reforms.”
When it launches in the spring 2023 semester, the Criminal Defense Clinic will be the 12th in the Law School’s clinical program. Funded with a $2.5 million commitment from the Barton Family Foundation, the clinic will train students in direct representation of clients in criminal cases, provide them with a grounding in scientific methods and data analysis, and educate them to become leaders in ending racialized mass incarceration. (Read more.) The clinic builds on the Law School’s existing strengths in criminal law, including the Wilson Center for Science and Justice, the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, the Center for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility, the Appellate Litigation Clinic, and interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty and students throughout the university.
“Elana Fogel will bring to our new criminal defense clinic deep trial experience in a range of jurisdictions, work with diverse populations of defendants, policy experience and vision, dedication to local collaboration, and powerful enthusiasm for the transformative possibilities of clinical legal education in Durham and beyond,” says L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law Brandon L. Garrett, who directs the Wilson Center. “We are so thrilled to welcome her as a colleague and to launch this impactful new clinic.”
Fogel says the new clinic will be on the cutting edge of training new attorneys to do “necessary, urgent, and important” work.
“Elana is committed to creating a clinic that is rooted in the Durham community and responsive to local needs.”— Clinical Professor Kate Evans
“The unique emphasis of this clinic and the groundbreaking space that Duke Law is filling by incorporating data and science at the trial advocacy level as well as in policy reform is especially exciting,” Fogel says. “This interdisciplinary approach is the vanguard of criminal defense and expands the impact that trial-level attorneys can have. The Law School’s focus on collaboration and innovation and the opportunity to empower students to be creative advocates for justice drew me to this position.
“I’m especially looking forward to joining the existing criminal justice centers and clinics and expanding upon the broad expertise that they have developed with our focus on trial-level advocacy. These collaborations will enable students to develop literacies and tools that we can share with the larger community of practicing criminal defense attorneys.”
Fogel entered NYU Law as a public interest scholar with a strong interest in addressing racial inequities in the legal system and in policing. “Examining the human impacts of mass incarceration and the racial disparities in the criminal justice system really motivated me to focus in that space,” she says. “Diving into the doctrinal complexities of criminal law, and the gaps between ideals and reality, just deepened that passion.”
Her experiences in NYU’s Criminal and Community Defense Clinic, where she worked at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and in its Children’s Rights Clinic, where she assisted juvenile clients in delinquency and child welfare cases, laid the practical foundation for translating the interests of a self-described young idealist into a rewarding career, Fogel says. Advocating for nationwide criminal justice policy reform as an intern at the ACLU’s Initiative to Combat Mass Incarceration and providing indigent clients with criminal defense and immigration support during an internship at The Bronx Defenders offered further opportunities for experiential learning.
As a post-graduate fellow at Harvard’s Criminal Justice Policy Program, Fogel’s work included advocating for oversight and transparency in the use of emerging science and technologies in policing and data-driven approaches to combating mass incarceration. She says she has been fortunate to be part of organizations that prioritize science-based defense strategies and looks forward to imparting them to a new generation of lawyers.
“Foundational trial advocacy skills absolutely will be a focus of the clinic,” she says. “But understanding both the larger context of mass incarceration that defines the cases the students will handle and extrapolating from their individual case experience to think systemically about how to use data and science both as an individual client advocate and from a reform perspective is what will make the clinic unique and such a powerful experience for the students that join us.
“I’m really looking forward to helping students understand that data is not meant to displace some of the more traditional or foundational modes of client representation but to enhance them and add another tool in the advocacy toolkit.”
Throughout her career Fogel has welcomed opportunities to mentor and teach. She credits a high school basketball coach with sparking a love of teaching by encouraging her to be a coach herself for a summer. During and after college she volunteered at Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, where she mentored young women of color in an advocacy and leadership program and joined in efforts to address gender-based violence. As a legal fellow at Harvard she led two weekly seminars and directed law students in bail policy reform initiatives and advocacy around the oversight of new science and technology in policing. And in her most recent position she conducted trial skills trainings for peers and new law graduates and law school interns on topics such as cross-examination, closing arguments, and building trust with clients.
In her teaching Fogel says she aims to create a collaborative space where the skills, context, and background that instructors provide is complemented by students’ ideas and perspectives.
“Mentors have played a tremendously important role in my own career. Providing that same guidance to future advocates for justice is one of the chief reasons that I’m so excited to take on this role at Duke Law.
“It’s so rewarding to foster the exponential skill growth that younger attorneys can have,” she says. “I find it to be a symbiotic process where students learn from our practice skills and experience while bringing new energy and ideas. Together, we can keep pushing the bar forward.”