Penn State Law launches new Indigent Criminal Defense Clinic

February 06, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Law students will have the opportunity to practice criminal law in a new clinic set to begin operation in the fall. The Indigent Criminal Justice Clinic (ICJC) will give third-year students the experience of working with criminal defendants accused of misdemeanor offenses in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas. The students will work under the supervision of Casey McClain and Richard Settgast, both attorneys at the Centre County Public Defender Office.

“Students will take their academic knowledge and transform it into practical experience representing their own clients from the community, making contacts with other lawyers and serving as ambassadors of Penn State Law,” McClain said. “In addition to getting a great experience it’s also a chance for the law school to give back to the community by serving a much needed role in the defense of indigent members of Centre County.”

Students will work as defense attorneys learning litigation, negotiation, and advocacy skills in both the clinic and the classroom. Students will conduct interviews of their clients and work to best represent the client through all phases of the criminal justice process.

Referrals to the clinic will come through the Centre County Public Defender Office and are intended to provide criminal defendants who cannot afford private counsel with highly effective representation that is client-centered, professional and ethical.

“The clinic will be an invaluable opportunity to step out of the classroom and apply what I've learned to engage clients, gain real courtroom experience and serve the local community,” said second-year law student Thomas Robins, who hopes to join the clinic in the fall.

The clinic will be based in the Law School’s Innovation Park facility, which also houses the Center for Immigrants' Rights, the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic, the Family Law Clinic, the International Sustainable Development Projects Clinic and the Rural Economic Development Clinic. The facility, which is set up to function like a law firm, includes conference rooms, private offices and a central, open area with individual student workspaces. Penn State Law also operates the Community Law Clinic and the Children's Advocacy Clinic in Carlisle, Pa. 

“The addition of our new Indigent Criminal Justice Clinic provides Penn State Law students with an unprecedented range of clinical opportunities, from civil to criminal, transactional to litigation, domestic to international," said Dean Phil McConnaughay. "In combination with the law school’s exceptional externship opportunities and the Semester in Washington, D.C., program, experiential learning at Penn State Law is unmatched.”

  • Public defender Richard Settgast will supervise the Indigent Criminal Justice Clinic.

    IMAGE: Mary Szmolko
Last Updated July 22, 2015