Student attorneys in the Public Defender Clinic represent indigent defendants in criminal cases under the close supervision of Jeff Roth, an adjunct professor at the College of Law and attorney in the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office since 1997. Although the majority of Clinic cases involve felony drug possession charges, previous Clinic students have defended various other felony and misdemeanor charges including aggravated assault, resisting arrest, promoting prison contraband, car theft and DUI, to name a few. In the process of their representation, students will interview clients and witnesses, draft motions, and handle preliminary hearings, plea proceedings, settlement conferences, sentencings, evidentiary hearings and jury trials. They will receive daily feedback from Professor Roth on ways to improve their techniques and will often receive advice from other practitioners, as well as from sitting Superior Court judges. They also will gain a considerable amount of knowledge of courtroom procedure and the rules of evidence.
In order to sharpen the requisite courtroom skills, Dan Lowrance, a longtime adjunct faculty member and Training Director for the Public Defender’s Office, will conduct a mandatory Clinic seminar in trial advocacy. The seminar teaches effective public speaking techniques generally and also provides specific training in all aspects of trials including opening statements, closing arguments, direct and cross-examination, and voir dire.
Evidence is a prerequisite for the Clinic, a graded course (6 credits). Although Trial Advocacy is not required, the skills learned in it are beneficial. During the fall and spring semester, Professor Roth conducts a mandatory three-day training session before classes begin. During those semesters, students must reserve two full days for the Clinic between Monday and Thursday and a half day on Friday. Summer students must be available all day, every day. Enrollment is limited to 4 to 5 students in the Fall and Spring and 3 to 4 in the Summer.