Information for Students
Plea and Sentencing Clinic I (4 credits) provides a framework in which students will assist with representation of indigent prisoner clients who currently have cases in which they are represented by the State Appellate Defender's Office ("SADO"), and who have issues relating to their sentencing or guilty pleas. Under the supervision of an attorney from SADO, students will interview and counsel with clients, isolate client issues, undertake intensive research relating to the identified issues, prepare legal memoranda, as well as motions and briefs for presentation in Michigan circuit courts, and argue those matters before the circuit court. Students will receive instruction on a variety of matters pertinent to their work, including the structure and overview of the legal system relating to pleas and sentences, plea and sentencing guidelines, client interview techniques, issue spotting and brief writing, and appellate strategy. In participating in this clinic, students will explore and develop fundamental skills and values essential to the ethical and competent practice of law. In addition to class time, enrolled students must work a minimum of 16 hours at the clinic or at SADO's downtown Lansing location each week (in general, each student likely can expect to expend 16 to 20 hours weekly in addition to class time - course requirement is 224 hours). Some travel time to clients' locations or to circuit courts may be required, depending upon the cases assigned to the student. Students are selected to participate through an application process. NOTE: Enrolled students must attend a mandatory two-day clinic "Boot Camp" that takes place on the Saturday and Sunday before the start of classes on Monday.
Law Students interested in enrolling in this clinical programs course for fall 2012 must complete the enrollment application (PDF) and submit it to Prof. Dagher-Margosian no later than April 20, 2012.
State Appellate Defender Office
The State Appellate Defender Office ("SADO") is appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants on appeal. One division deals with convictions and sentences resulting from trials, and one division, the plea unit, deals with convictions and sentences resulting from guilty or no contest pleas. This Clinic will address plea cases.
Plea cases comprise the vast majority of convictions and sentences in the criminal system. Integrity in this process is critical to a criminal justice system that operates fairly. Understanding the system is fundamental to serving indigent defendants who are accused of crimes, both large and small.
Students enrolled in this class will work on these cases with me, and will work on actual plea and sentence issues. Students will meet with clients who are inmates within county jails or the Michigan Department of Corrections, and they will counsel clients as to appellate risks and options. Class members will also investigate case facts and draft all or part of motions, briefs, and legal memoranda for court filing.
Additionally, students will be included in court hearings to the extent possible. Where appropriate, students may be asked to participate in motion hearings, or to participate in case negotiations. Class time may be adjusted to include and reflect these activities. I engage students in trial-level hearings and hands-on negotiations throughout the term to the extent possible.
Regardless of the appellate filing in the case, every student will prepare a plea unit pleading (motion and brief, application for leave and brief, memorandum of law, or brief on appeal) on behalf of his or her client. Students may also be required to present a formal oral argument. No late assignments will be accepted for any reason.