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Students will participate in an externship with the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center (“MJC”) in Washington, D.C., working on appeals before federal circuit courts and/or the U.S. Supreme Court that raise important issues related to civil rights and the criminal justice system.  Students will work full-time for the clinic over winter term while also taking the required winter clinical seminar, and then continue their clinical work in the spring term for 2 or 3 clinical credits.

MJC is one of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations and champions criminal justice reform through litigation, in areas that include police misconduct, rights of the accused, issues facing indigent prisoners, the death penalty, and the rights of detainees. The organization’s Washington, D.C. office focuses specifically on appellate litigation as a vehicle for achieving change in these areas. Examples of issues raised in MJC appeals include:

  • Unsettled questions of criminal procedure under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments (search & seizure, privilege against self-incrimination, right to a jury, right to counsel);
  • Issues facing indigent prisoners, including the constitutional rights of prisoners to be free from cruel and unusual treatment by prison officials and access to courts;
  • Constitutional challenges to the use of solitary confinement in the prison system;
  • Fundamental trial rights under the Due Process Clause, including issues unique to capital trials;
  • Challenges to certain discriminatory executive actions outside of the criminal justice system, including discriminatory practices of Immigrations and Custom Enforcement and discrimination against Muslim travelers at the border.

Students will learn the ins-and-outs of litigating appeals in the field criminal justice, including general appellate strategy and skills, and emerging issues in the criminal justice system. Under the supervision of the director of MJC’s D.C. Office, students will have the opportunity to make a substantial contribution to the office’s ongoing appellate cases, including performing research and draft legal analysis for briefs that will be filed in federal court. Depending on the particular matters students work on, this may also include participation in client interaction and strategic decision-making, analysis of factual records, and participation in moot oral arguments (depending upon the stage of their assigned appeals).

How to Apply

The Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic is offered in the Winter-Spring semester. Please visit the course catalog for more information about the application process. You can learn about the required clinical course component, clinical credits, additional requirements, and the clinical registration process, by reading the course catalog description and exploring the links in this section.

Application Deadline: October 23, 2022

Meet the Instructors

headshot of Amir Ali

Amir Ali

Co-Director; Lecturer on Law

Amir Ali co-directs the law school’s Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic and has taught courses on constitutional and appellate litigation. He is also the Executive Director of the MacArthur Justice Center, one of the nation’s preeminent civil rights firms. Mr. Ali has successfully litigated civil rights and criminal defense cases at all levels—including arguing multiple landmark cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. His work spans the justice system from end to end: from the accountability of police officers and prosecutors, to the constitutional rights of defendants, to criminal sentencing and the death penalty, to the rights of incarcerated people, to wrongful convictions.

headshot of Devi Rao

Devi Rao

Co-Director; Lecturer on Law

Devi M. Rao co-directs the law school’s Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic and Seminar and is the Director of the Washington, D.C. office and Deputy Director of the Supreme Court and Appellate Program at the MacArthur Justice Center. Ms. Rao briefs and argues important civil rights and criminal justice issues in federal appeals courts across the country, and in the U.S Supreme Court, including qualified immunity, excessive force, municipal liability issues, habeas, access to the courts, and federal sentencing issues.

In the News

  • Real-World Impact with the Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic

    By Aleena Ijaz, JD ‘ 22 I came into law school with a broad interest in criminal justice reform but little knowledge of the law. I certainly did not know the differences between trial and appellate litigation. After my first few semesters of law school, however, I realized that I enjoyed legal research, writing, and

    March 1, 2022

  • Hands-On Appellate Experience in the Harvard Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic

    by Chris Stevenson J.D. ’21 I became interested in Harvard’s Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic (CJAC) when I applied to Harvard Law School as a transfer student. Indeed, it was one of the chief drivers of my desire to transfer because I believed (rightly so, as it turns out) that it was the type of work

    March 10, 2021

  • A Win for Criminal Defendants at the U.S. Supreme Court

      By: Dalia Deak J.D. ’19 On February 27, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court restored the appeal rights of Mr. Gilberto Garza, Jr., and other criminal defendants like him. In a 6-3 opinion, the Court found that Mr. Garza’s defense attorney had improperly forfeited his appeal in violation of Mr. Garza’s constitutional rights — even

    April 18, 2019