Federal Criminal Justice Clinic

Helping defendants in need

Prof. Alison Siegler started in the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic in 2008. "I thought it would be an incredible opportunity for students to really learn how to be lawyers. Most law schools have a state level criminal defense clinic, but nobody has this clinic that does exclusively federal felony cases."

Clinic Profile

The Federal Criminal Justice Clinic is the first law school clinic in the country to focus on representing indigent clients charged with federal felonies. The FCJC gives students a unique opportunity to represent individual clients in federal court. FCJC students also engage in policy advocacy and systemic reform efforts, with a focus on combatting racial disparities and racially discriminatory practices. The FCJC is currently leading a Federal Bail Reform Project through which students have engaged in legislative advocacy before Congress and have created the first federal courtwatching initiative in the country.

The FCJC litigates in federal district court in Chicago, takes Seventh Circuit appeals, and writes amicus briefs and petitions for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. In our district court litigation, FCJC students may have an opportunity to interview clients and witnesses; meet with clients; conduct and participate in hearings and trials; research, write, and argue motions and briefs; and participate in case investigations. During the pandemic, FCJC students have continued representing clients virtually and have litigated numerous successful motions for compassionate release. Students involved in appellate litigation write briefs to the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court and may conduct oral argument in the Seventh Circuit.

The FCJC seminar includes skills exercises, simulations, lectures, case rounds, guest speakers, and discussions. The pre-requisites/co-requisites are Professor Siegler’s Criminal Procedure II course, Evidence, and Criminal Procedure I; these courses may be taken at any time during 2L or 3L year. It is strongly recommended that students interested in joining the FCJC take a trial advocacy course. The FCJC is a year-long clinic. First priority is given to 3Ls; the remaining slots go to 2Ls. Students who want to learn more about the FCJC or who have questions about the enrollment requirements may contact Professor Siegler or Professor Zunkel.

FCJC Honored for Groundbreaking Stash House Cases Litigation

The multi-year project challenged the practice by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives of luring unsuspecting people of color into schemes to rob non-existent drug stash houses. The project began with appellate litigation that created a new legal standard that has been adopted by courts of appeals across the country.

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Alison Siegler

Clinical Professor of Law, Director, Federal Criminal Justice Clinic

Erica Zunkel

Clinical Professor of Law, Associate Director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic

Judith P. MIller

Clinical Professor of Law

Law Clinics Fighting For Compassionate Release

The FCJC along with several clinics across the country are working to secure compassionate release for clients who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and clients who are serving excessive sentences. The first client profiled in this video is the FCJC’s client, Richard Thompson.

On Thursday, November 14, 2019, Alison Siegler testified before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security at a hearing on “The Administration of Bail by State and Federal Courts: A Call for Reform.”

Discovering Racial Discrimination by the Police

This article by Prof. Alison Siegler and William Admussen, '20, describes the new legal standard created by the clinic's stash house litigation.

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