Indigent Defense Project

The goal of the Indigent Defense Project is to promote the improvement in the administration of justice by striving to make sure that each indigent criminal defendant is represented professionally and with dignity. Working hand in hand with the Training Director of Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), law school students learn the knowledge and skills required to handle a criminal case. Students work on real criminal cases and participate in the development of cases in real time, exploring the complexities of the criminal justice system by working in all areas of criminal defense practice.  Students work on a full range of projects from motions and memoranda to trial preparation and direct client representation (CLS students only). Students work to ensure that each criminal defendant is provided with zealous advocacy and quality representation.

To be eligible to participate in the IDP you must be a full or part time law student available to work in person in Portland, Oregon.

Criminal Justice/Public Defense Class

During the 2014-15 academic year, the OJRC and Metropolitan Public Defender will pilot a criminal justice/public defense class (non for credit) for all students working with the OJRC. Our goal is to create a year-round comprehensive class and multi-year program that trains students how to be public defenders and criminal justice advocates and actively pushes students into internships, externships, and jobs in related areas.

The purpose of this course and program is (1) to reaffirm our commitment to Gideon and address the right to counsel with the sense of urgency it deserves; (2) to respond and address the systemic civil rights violations caused by mass/over incarceration; and (3) to develop the leadership of future social justice lawyers so that they can better advocate for marginalized communities and reform the criminal justice system. At the heart of this is to train future public interest lawyers to be competent and accountable to their clients and the communities they serve and simultaneously engage in impact litigation that addresses systemic injustices, while fostering a strong community of criminal justice advocates at Lewis & Clark Law School. The proposed course is designed to complement the work and Projects of the OJRC.

This course will review the most important and distinctive aspects of Oregon criminal law, Oregon criminal procedure and the Oregon Evidence Code.  It is meant to provide an overview of the major areas of law required for a criminal practice, as a defense attorney. The first hour of each two-hour class will be spent discussing a discrete area of Oregon law, as exemplified by recent cases.  The second hour of each class will involve a practical skills-based application of the law using redacted police reports, charging instruments, and other documents as examples.  Such skills will include motion writing, effectively arguing motions to trial judges, applying law to police reports and charging instruments, formulating theories for trial and making sentencing arguments. All assignments will involve live cases. 

Additionally, the class will consider the types of advocacy lawyers can use to effect reform, including appellate cases addressing ineffective assistance of counsel, affirmative systemic litigation, motions for caseload relief, development of standards with bar associations, development of court rules, informal advocacy with courts, prosecutors, law enforcement, and local governments, legislative advocacy, attorney discipline and judicial misconduct proceedings, and publications. Students will gain broad range of experiences in order to "advance social justice agendas and learn a formidable array of lawyering skills not utilized in conventional defense clinics.”

This class will “integrate individual direct representation with initiatives designed to effect larger-scale change, such as impact litigation, legislative advocacy, community lawyering, and organizing.” This course will anchor an already robust effort of the OJRC to help students develop important practical skills and while working in the community, connecting with practitioners and alumni, leading to both traditional and non-traditional positions. 

Project Directors: Alex Bassos, Training Director, Metropolitan Public Defender; Bobbin Singh, Executive Director, OJRC

Metropolitan Public Defender (Partner Organization): Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD) is a multi-county, non-profit public defender handling every type and level of criminal and juvenile case, from misdemeanors to capital cases and delinquencies to dependencies. MPD is the largest publice defender in the state with approximately 150,000 cases annually.

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