Capital Habeas Unit:
Traditional Unit Extern Program
The Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio is continually seeking the assistance of law students to assist in the fulfillment of its mission to effectively represent indigent clients charged with federal criminal violations. These are all unpaid positions; however, students are typically given challenging assignments and work very closely with their supervising attorneys to deliver effective legal representation to our clients.
The Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton offices all participate with area law schools in the supervision of an ongoing law student extern program. With the permission of the student’s law school, students may extern in any one of these three locations for law school credit.
Second and third year law students with an interest in criminal law are encouraged to complete the online statement of interest.
For additional information, interested law students should email Alan Pfeuffer.
Capital Habeas Unit Extern Program
The Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) represents inmates on Ohio’s death row in federal district court, the Sixth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court, and also argues for clemency before the Ohio Parole Board and to Ohio’s governor. The legal work involves the exciting and challenging intersection of constitutional law, death-penalty jurisprudence, and habeas and civil-rights litigation. CHU teams also investigate clients’ social histories, digging into records and witnesses related to their backgrounds, upbringing, education, and other factors relevant to their development. The CHU works closely with experts in a variety of areas, including neurology, psychology, psychiatry, forensics, DNA, mental-health, addiction, and intellectual disability.
The office operates in teams of attorneys, investigators, and support staff to tackle this demanding and sobering work. Externs work closely with these teams to assist in both legal and factual research and drafting related to the clients’ cases. CHU teams rely on externs’ assistance on real projects for real clients and aim to involve the externs as much as possible from start to finish on a project––from initial investigation to filing the finished product and all points in between. The CHU seeks externs with sound judgment, the ability to work independently, excellent research and writing skills, and a strong commitment to indigent defense and saving clients’ lives.
Past externs have participated in a variety of experiences in and out of the office, including: helping to prepare for and attend court and clemency hearings; attending oral arguments before the Sixth Circuit and the Ohio Supreme Court; meeting clients on death row; consulting with experts to prepare written and oral testimony; and meeting federal judges. CHU externs have also had the opportunity to meet clients and observe court proceedings related to work on the traditional side of the Federal Public Defender office. In addition, externs can attend intra-office training sessions and weekly office luncheons. Past training topics have ranged from areas such as habeas law, appellate writing, information about effects of trauma on its victims, and updates on forensic and medical science.
For additional information, interested law students should email Erin Barnhart.