Federal Criminal Justice Clinic

Freedom Denied: How the Culture of Detention Created a Federal Jailing Crisis

In the first comprehensive national investigation of federal pretrial detention, Professor Alison Siegler and the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic seek to understand why federal jailing rates are astronomically high, with three out of every four people jailed before trial—far more than in state systems. The answer is shocking.

read the report

The Federal Criminal Justice Clinic is the nation’s first legal clinic devoted to representing indigent clients charged with federal felonies, pursuing impact litigation through criminal cases in federal court, and engaging in systemic reform of the federal criminal system to combat racial and economic inequities.

Systemic Change

The FCJC is leading federal bail reform efforts in this country. On December 7, 2022, Professor Alison Siegler and clinic students released the first comprehensive national investigation of federal pretrial detention—Freedom Denied: How the Culture of Detention Created a Federal Jailing Crisis.

Other multi-year impact projects have included bringing a constitutional challenge to a racially discriminatory federal law enforcement operation in “stash house” cases; compassionate release and other second chance advocacy, especially on behalf of clients impacted by that racially discriminatory federal law enforcement; and challenging limitations on access to federal criminal courts during COVID. The FCJC continues to develop additional impact projects as part of our advocacy and systemic reform efforts.

Individual Client Representation

The FCJC gives students a unique opportunity to represent individual clients in federal court. The clinic takes on a limited number of individual representations in federal district court in Chicago, the Seventh Circuit, and before the U.S. Supreme Court. The FCJC has also represented clients in several federal jury trials. 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. 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 Curriculum

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. Students interested in joining the FCJC are strongly encouraged to take the Intensive Trial Practice Workshop, for which Professor Judith Miller is a core faculty member. 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 Miller.

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
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.

Read Story

Alison Siegler

Clinical Professor of Law, Director, 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.

Read article