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Public Interest Externship

Lawyers play a special role in advocating for and defending the interests of poor and marginalized populations who because of their poverty or other causes have traditionally had more limited access to this the justice system. This externship places students with local public interest and non-profit organizations with a particular emphasis on organizations that serve the legal needs of the poor. Through the range of clients and legal issues handled by these organizations, students will gain hands-on experience and develop a wide variety of practical lawyering skills in both litigation and non-litigation practice settings. Students must commit to 135 hours of field work at their assigned placement during the course of the semester. This course is graded Pass/Fail (E,HP,P,F). Contact Professor Robert Lancaster if interested in this opportunity.

Below is a brief description of some of the public interest and non-profit organizations where externs have been placed.

Acadian Legal Services of Lafayette

The Acadiana Legal Service Corporation provides legal services to the poor of Acadiana, now serving residents of 21 parishes in the region. This organization provides free services in most areas of civil law, including: bankruptcy, education, employment, family law, health related issues, landlord-tenant and other housing problems, and civil rights.

Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office

The Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office provides pre-trial and trial representation to indigents charged with capital crimes in Louisiana. BRCCO is appointed in cases in which the state is seeking the death penalty against multiple defendants and the local public defender’s office is only ethically able to represent one of the defendants. The second situation in which BRCCO is appointed is in single-defendant cases where there is no capital-qualified counsel available locally.

The Innocence Project (New Orleans)

Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) represents innocent prisoners serving life sentences in Louisiana and Mississippi, and assists them with their transition into the free world upon their release. Most of our clients are poor, forgotten and all of them have used up all legal avenues for relief. IPNO works in the states with the country’s highest incarceration rates and the highest rates of wrongful conviction in the country. By identifying and remedying cases and causes of wrongful conviction, we engage in high impact, frontline advocacy in the courts of law and public opinion, and lead community-based responses into the mistakes made by our criminal justice system. This placement will require that the participating student travel to the New Orleans, Louisiana office of the IPNO to fulfill all required hours of fieldwork – i.e. field work cannot be performed “remotely.”

Office of the Federal Public Defender-Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge)

The Federal Public Defender represents all indigent defendants in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The office handles cases assigned from the Middle District Judges from target letter, trial, and direct appeal through post-conviction. The Office works through the assigned Assistant Federal public Defender and private practice attorneys who are members of the Criminal Justice Act Panel and accept appointments from the office.

Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights (New Orleans Office)

LCCR defends the rights and dignity of young people in Louisiana’s juvenile justice system by providing holistic, skilled, and client-directed legal representation; leadership in juvenile defense reform, and training and practice resources for public defenders.

Louisiana 19th Judicial District Public Defender

The 19th JDC Defender Office’s attorneys represent indigent clients in criminal and juvenile cases in the eight sections of the 19th JDC Criminal District Court, in the two sections of Juvenile Court, as well as in City Courts in Baton Rouge, Baker and Zachary. The District Defender in the 19th JDC is Michael A. Mitchell, who has served in that position for fifteen years, and been a public defender in Louisiana for 22 years. Because of the nature of criminal court dockets in the 19th JDC and in order to get the most educational benefit from this placement, students should try to arrange their class schedules so that a substantial amount of their regular 8-10 hours per week working in this placement will be during the mornings Monday through Thursday, which is the busiest time for the criminal courts.

Louisiana 23rd Judicial District Public Defender

The office of the 23rd JDC Public Defender is located in Gonzales, Louisiana, Parish of Ascension. Students would assist the public defender.

Louisiana 15th Judicial District Public Defender

The office of the 15th Judicial District Public Defender is located in Lafayette, Louisiana, Parish of Lafayette. Students would assist the public defender.

Louisiana Mental Health Advocacy Service

The Louisiana Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS) is a statewide service established to provide legal counsel and representation to mentally disabled persons and to ensure that their legal rights are protected. The MHAS handles virtually every mental health commitment hearing in Louisiana and provides legal representation on matters pertaining to legal competency and patient rights. The MHAS also represents children in abuse and neglect cases in a number of large jurisdictions around the state, including East Baton Rouge Parish. The MHAS has its administrative Headquarters in Baton Rouge and operates five field offices around the state.

Orleans Parish Public Defender’s Office

Each year, OPD represents nearly 20,000 children and adults facing misdemeanors, fellow and capital offenses. Every client is represented by a dedicated team: attorney, investigator, client advocate, social worker and court support administrator. Attorneys and investigators work tirelessly to build the best possible defense for each individual client. Attorneys zealously litigate pretrial issues such as evidence suppression, speedy trial, double jeopardy and Brady violations, and try dozens of cases a year. Social workers and client advocates recommend alternatives to incarceration and connect clients to community-based social services, treatment programs, job and housing placement. They also work for language access, medical advocacy, client safety and eligibility for specialty courts, re-entry and jail programming.

Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response

The mission of S.T.A.R. is to support survivors of sexual trauma, improve systems response, and create social change to end sexual violence. As an extern at S.T.A.R., students will assist the staff by providing advocacy, counseling and legal services to survivors aged 12 and older at no cost. The staff creates a safe, supportive, confidential environment where survivors of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, class or sexual orientation are welcomed and supported.

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (Baton Rouge, Covington, or New Orleans offices)

SLLS is the largest public interest law firm in the state of Louisiana with offices in Hammond, Covington, New Orleans, and Marrero, Louisiana. SLLS’ Baton Rouge office provides civil legal services to low-income residents in a number of areas including, family law, consumer protection, housing, wills and successions, and public benefits. This is an excellent opportunity to gain experience in the wide variety of civil legal matters handled by SLLS’ attorneys.

Louisiana Parole Project, Inc.

LPP is a statewide legal service and reentry service provider for individuals who are returning to society after a long period of imprisonment. Most of LPP clients were sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed while they were children and are being released after 25+ years of incarceration. Students work with LPP lawyers and reentry staff in preparing clients for release, advocating for them before the Louisiana Board of Pardons, Committee on Parole, and assisting in their reentry needs upon release. LPP offices are located in Baton Rouge.

Refugee and Immigration Legal Services of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge

The Refugee and Immigration Legal Services division of Catholic Charities assists refugees, immigrants, victims of human trafficking and torture to rebuild their lives by providing legal services, case management and translation services to access services, gain employment, and become productive members of our community. They help keep families together who are threatened with separation so they can create & rebuild for themselves a future of hope and responsibility. Through outreach, Catholic Charities helps legal immigrants escape domestic violence, labor exploitation and in some instances forced prostitution.