Person in handcuffs in front of a judge
Illustration: Shutterstock / Marc Harkness

New clinic to give students opportunities for hands-on experience with criminal defense

Duke Law School is launching a clinic focused on criminal defense in January.

Funded by a $2.5 million commitment from the Barton Family Foundation, the Criminal Defense Clinic will train students in the practice of criminal representation and equip them to be leaders in ending mass incarceration and racial injustice.

“Ending racialized mass incarceration will require investments and efforts across the nation and in many different types of institutions. Duke University and Duke Law School provide the ideal home for an important part of this undertaking,” said James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean Kerry Abrams.

“With the right policy and litigation strategies, supported by research in disciplines across the university, we can begin to turn the tide on the pernicious effect of racism in our criminal legal system. We are grateful to the Barton Family Foundation for so generously supporting the training of future justice leaders.”

The Seattle-based Barton Family Foundation, begun in 2004 by Sarah and Richard Barton, focuses its support on organizations working to reform the criminal justice system in the United States and rectify societal inequities that lead to incarceration.

“America’s criminal legal system is broken,” the Bartons said in a statement. “Biased and discriminatory, it also begets racial, gender, and income disparities and breeds despair. Our reliance on mass incarceration has not enhanced public safety but has weakened communities by separating families and undermining mental, physical, and economic well-being. We are pleased to support a new clinic at Duke Law that will leverage the resources of the university and train future leaders in the fight against injustice.”

The criminal defense clinic will be led by Elana R. Fogel, who most recently served as a federal public defender in San Diego, where she gained substantial experience teaching, training, and mentoring young lawyers. A graduate of NYU Law School, Fogel has also served as a public defender in Boston and a fellow in the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard. She has joined the faculty as a clinical professor. (Read more.)

Fogel will supervise students in providing pro bono legal representation to indigent clients in local criminal cases. Students also will be trained in scientific literacy and data analysis so they can effectively incorporate research into both their representation of individuals and policy advocacy.

The clinic, the 12th at Duke Law, promises to increase learning and practice opportunities for students interested in working in the criminal legal system and build on the Law School’s existing strengths in this area, 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.

Such skills are especially important for criminal lawyers given the need to respond to disparities, including racial disparities, in outcomes in criminal cases, the high rate of mental health and substance abuse issues among the incarcerated population, and the need to understand and respond to forensic evidence presented in criminal cases, said L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law Brandon Garrett, director of the Wilson Center. 

“Research and policy work alone will not solve the problem of racialized mass incarceration,” Garrett said. “However, working with data, science, and research is a critical part of being an effective advocate. We aspire to combine our established success in community-engaged research with experiential education that will enable law students and graduates to pilot new lawyering strategies and bring their skills and knowledge to new communities.”

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Duke Law Magazine Cover Summer 2022

Summer 2022
Volume 41 No. 1