Internship Opportunities at the Criminal Defense Practice

The Criminal Defense Trial Offices

The Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society is the largest and oldest public defender organization in the country. A private non-profit, The Legal Aid Society is the primary public defender organization for New York City, with a CDP trial office in each of the city’s five counties. The trial offices collectively represent close to 200,000 indigent people, with charges ranging from violations to misdemeanors to the most serious felony charges imaginable. Under a system of continuity of representation, the same lawyer represents a client from the initial Criminal Court arraignment to trial court resolution. While the atmosphere in the trial offices is informal, with a diversity of styles and personalities, there is an intense devotion to the shared mission of equal justice.

Interns are directly supervised by experienced staff attorneys. Law student interns are immersed in our practice, experiencing and participating in our work by meaningfully assisting attorneys in the representation of our clients. Among the tasks that law student interns can look forward to are regularly accompanying attorneys to court, writing motions, doing legal research and writing, and conducting investigations. There is the opportunity to view and perhaps second seat hearings and trials. Depending on the interns placement and education level (Fall, Spring or Summer; 1L, 2L or rising 2L or 3L), the intern may be permitted to stand in court on selected cases under close attorney supervision.

Parole Revocation Defense Unit

The Parole Revocation Defense Unit (PRDU) of the Legal Aid Society represents clients charged with violating the conditions of their parole at administrative hearings held at the Rikers Island Judicial Center. A high proportion of our clients are categorized as Special Needs, with issues including drug addiction, mental illness (often severe) and medical needs. An internship with PRDU offers, in addition to the opportunity to do research and to assist attorneys in hearings and in related litigation, the chance to have extensive of client contact and to work in a team with attorneys and social workers.

Special Litigation Law Reform Unit

The primary mission of the Criminal Defense Special Litigation Unit is to engage in law reform. We do this through class-action and individual litigation, legislative advocacy, public education, and training and education in the areas of criminal defense. Current projects include litigation about improper arrests that stem from the stop and frisk program, advocacy concerning discovery and sentencing reform and the sealing of arrest records following a conviction. Interns working with the Special Litigation Unit tend to work on large scale law reform litigation or legislative projects. The work often involves significant amounts of research and writing.

In addition, the Special Litigation Unit maintains a practice that reviews and challenges prison disciplinary issues at Rikers Island. Work with this part of our practice would involve extensive interviewing of prisoners, the review of the records of administrative disciplinary proceedings, and the filing of litigation to challenge proceedings that violate the law.

Criminal Appeals Bureau

The Criminal Appeals Bureau (CAB) assists indigent defendant-appellants challenging their convictions on direct appeal, as well as providing a variety of other post-conviction services.

Appellate Interns will assist attorney staff collecting, reviewing and assembling data for presentation to support individual inmate applications for sentence reduction, parole or other release from prison. Specifically, interns will:

  1. Draft sentence reduction briefs, re-sentencing motions and parole letters in support of inmate applications for early release from prison (2L interns will draft an appellate brief in a felony or misdemeanor trial case; 1L may draft a trial brief if time permits and depending upon the availability of a suitable trial case);
  2. Conduct legal research and draft related memoranda regarding criminal law;
  3. Respond to inmate inquiries regarding the appellate process, re-sentencing, re-entry services and parole advocacy;
  4. Assist inmates in obtaining prison/institution records and letters of support (housing, employment, character) for their parole applications;
  5. Retrieve, review and digest/outline court files and other case records; 6. Observe appellate arguments, as well as related trial court proceedings;
  6. Assist with administrative tasks, as necessary.

Exploitation Intervention Project

The Exploitation Intervention Project (EIP) provides direct representation and comprehensive services to individuals charged with prostitution-related offenses and survivors of trafficking facing prosecution for other offenses in New York City’s criminal courts. EIP is the first effort by a public defender program to address the systemic criminalization of victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. EIP seeks to change the way prostitution-related arrests are handled in criminal courts, raise awareness among criminal justice stakeholders on issues of trafficking, and advocate for survivors in various capacities. In close partnership with its clients, EIP works to combat barriers, minimize harm, increase safety, and prevent further exploitation, whether individual or systemic.

EIP interns (2L preferred) will work with the project’s four designated attorneys, two supervising attorneys, social worker, and paralegal/case handler to address the comprehensive needs of Criminal Practice clients charged with prostitution and related offenses. Project legal interns will:

  • appear in court with attorneys,
  • engage with clients in and out of court,
  • perform legal research, prepare motions and other written advocacy,
  • assist with the screening of survivors of trafficking for post-conviction relief, and
  • attend and assist with internal and external trainings.

DNA Unit

This year, the Legal Aid Society created a special unit of experience attorneys to assist in litigating cases involving DNA. As an intern you will work with seasoned lawyers with a mixed background in science and in criminal trial advocacy. Some of the work you will assist in includes:

  • Researching and drafting legal papers challenging the use of DNA evidence against our clients;
  • Helping to prepare cross examination for the DA's experts and direct examination for our experts at hearings and trials;
  • Seeking to obtain Frye hearings challenging the overall admissibility of certain evidence that we assert is based on flawed scientific methodologies;
  • Examining legal challenges to systemic forensic DNA issues emanating from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and other offices to be brought in state or federal court;
  • Seeking to influence local and state policy on DNA evidence usage;
  • Visiting the OCME offices to confer with their criminalists to discuss their DNA reports in LAS cases;
  • Research for use in continuing legal education training programs for the Unit members, the entire CDP and the defense bar;
  • Researching other areas of forensic science and criminal law, both in connection with the DNA evidence in our casework and independently, to challenge the other forensic science evidence;
  • Occasionally, visiting with clients, both incarcerated and at liberty, to explain issues to them; going out into the field to investigate crime scenes/speak to witnesses/survey neighborhoods for witnesses and other forms of evidence; • Meaningful experience with PowerPoint, Excel and Word are required.

Adolescent Intervention Diversion Team (AID)

This team represents young people charged in the system. An intern with the Adolescent Intervention and Diversion Team will have the opportunity to interview teenage clients, witnesses and family members, visit juvenile detention facilities, investigate cases, write motions and legal memoranda. Interns are matched with experienced criminal defense lawyers who specialize in the representation of adolescents in criminal and supreme court. Other opportunities may exist for educational advocacy, and involvement in policy issues.

Prisoners’ Rights Project

The Prisoners’ Rights Project has served for decades as a leading advocate of humane and constitutional conditions in the New York City jails and State prisons, conducting federal civil rights litigation and engaging in legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of persons in custody. Recent litigation addresses correction officer brutality in the City’s Rikers Island jails; sexual abuse of women prisoners in State facilities; constitu¬tional violations with respect to environmental conditions; the denial of education services to City and State prisoners; the denial of minimally adequate psych treatment to persons confined in State prisons, and the resulting overuse of solitary confinement; access to programs and services for prisoners with disabilities; and the application of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Interns correspond with and interview incarcerated clients; engage in advocacy with prison and jail officials on behalf of prisoners; and assist attorneys in collecting and organizing factual material gathered in connection with litigation or with pre-complaint investigations and in monitoring compliance with existing court orders.