Eighth Amendment Project


The Eighth Amendment Project (formerly the Death Penalty Project) works towards the repeal of the death penalty in Oregon and abolition of capital punishment nationwide. Working under the direct supervision of the Executive Director of the OJRC and the Director of the OCRC, students work on cases primarily on direct appeal and in post-conviction, learning the skills required to defend those facing capital punishment or disproportionately harsh sentences. Students research and draft pleadings addressing the legal claims in courts ranging from the state courts to the federal courts and may assist with amicus curiae briefs, COAs, merit briefs, clemency petitions, or petitions for writs of certiorari.

The Eighth Amendment Project requires students to meet 2-3 hours weekly over the course of a semester. During this time, students receive training in post-conviction law and investigation techniques; examine national legal doctrine governing the selection of cases to be tried capitally and the imposition of the death penalty; hear from speakers with a variety of expertise; and discuss their work and research with fellow classmates. Students must adhere strictly to rules regarding confidentiality and privilege and should be prepared to adjust to the demands of litigation.

Students serve an important role by reviewing trial records, examining evidence, working with experts, and preparing motions and briefs. These activities challenge students to hone their skills at problem solving, legal analysis, legal research, fact investigation, oral and written communication, client interviewing and counseling, and efficient management of practice. Students will gain the skills necessary to provide zealous, professional, and high-quality representation.

To be eligible to participate in the EAP, you must be a full or part time law student at Lewis & Clark Law School and available to work in person in Portland, Oregon.

Student Opportunities (2-4 Students):

  • 3L students are eligible to apply for a clerkship position with the Oregon Justice Resource Center and work pro bono as a Eighth Amendment Project Law Clerk. This position requires a commitment for the entire academic year (Fall/Spring) and 15 hours a week. Preference will be given to those students who have taken a Capital Punishment Seminar/Class or similar.
  • 2L students are eligible to apply for an internship position with the Oregon Justice Resource Center and work pro bono as a Eighth Amendment Project Intern. This position requires a commitment for the entire academic year (Fall/Spring) and 10-15 hours a week. Preference will be given to those students who have taken a Capital Punishment Seminar/Class or similar.

Students working with the OJRC in the Eighth Amendment Project are be expected to meet once a week downtown Portland (Wed) and weekly with OJRC staff at the OJRC office (located on the L&C undergrad campus). The OJRC reserves the right to alter the total number of participants in the DPP and to alter the number of 2Ls and 3Ls participating in the EAP.

Capital Punishment Seminar (taught every other year), taught by Jeffrey Ellis (Director, Oregon Capital Resource Center):

In this course, students will explore the history of the “modern” (i.e., post-1970) death penalty in the United States, learn about the major issues in present-day practice, and contemplate the future of capital punishment. Although the class will focus on the constitutional rules developed by the U.S. Supreme Court, students also will examine state and federal capital punishment statutes. Because capital punishment cannot be understood without an appreciation of its historical background and its relationship to other cultural practices, the instructor will occasionally supplement the case readings with law review articles, pieces from the popular media, audio and video material/resources, and primary documents.

In addition, this course aims to integrate theory with practice. The class will examine how death penalty decisions are made by prosecutors and jurors, as well as the duties and responsibilities of a lawyer assigned to defend an individual whose life is at stake. Thus, students will seek to understand the death penalty from various points of view—lawyers, judges, defendants, and the family and friends of homicide victims.

Like a traditional lecture class, students will be expected to read, discuss, and understand the leading cases and constitutional theory in this area. In addition to the primary text, students will discuss certain cases and secondary materials in depth. Rather than attempt to hastily cover all aspects of death penalty law, the course will instead focus on the core concepts that guide 8th Amendment jurisprudence—allowing students to take a longer look at the “hot” issues of the day. Students will also read practice materials and be expected to participate in “exercises” drawn from real-life (and death) events. The goal of this course is to understand not only how the death penalty has evolved since the mid-70’s, but also to gauge the next steps in its evolution.

Seminars and Continuing Legal Education: The Oregon Justice Resource Center will organize and present seminars in Portland that will feature nationally recognized authorities in capital defense.

Project Directors: S. Bobbin Singh, Executive Director, Oregon Justice Resource Center; Jeffrey Ellis, Director, Oregon Capital Resource Center

Oregon Capital Resource Center (Partner Organization): The Oregon Capital Resource Center is dedicated to facilitating and coordinating high quality legal representation in death penalty cases in Oregon.  The Center serves as a resource, advocacy, and training center for attorneys, mitigation specialists, and investigators representing capital clients in pre-trial, trial, and post-conviction death penalty cases, and provides direct representation in capital cases. The Center is available for consultation and to provide assistance in every capitally charged felony case and cases in which a death sentence has been returned.

For more information or if you have any questions please contact us at Info@OJRC.org