Criminal Law CurriculumCriminal Law is one of the most popular areas of practice—it is fast-paced, highly rewarding, sometimes lucrative, and always interesting. University of Richmond School of Law has a long tradition of producing top-notch prosecutors and defense attorneys, offering a variety of educational opportunities specific to the criminal law practice and offered by leading experts in the field.
Introductory CourseCriminal Law provides an introduction to the criminal law curriculum and is a required course in the spring first-year curriculum. Here students learn the core concepts of the criminal law and explore the theoretical justifications for the imposition of criminal punishment.
- Criminal Procedure: This 3-credit course is generally taught each semester and explores constitutional law in the criminal context. Here students study Fourth Amendment constraints on search and seizure, Fifth Amendment constraints on interrogation, and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. This course should be a top priority for those considering practice in the criminal law, and is highly recommended even for those who are not. Criminal Procedure is a tested subject on the bar exam.
- Criminal Process: This 3-credit course is generally taught once each year and explores the process of the criminal justice system from beginning to end. This course should be a top priority for those considering practice in the criminal law.
- White Collar Crime: This 3-credit course is generally taught once each year and explores a number of crimes in the business and organizational context, including fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
- Capital Murder Litigation: This 2-credit course is generally taught in the spring each year and explores issues arising in the litigation of death penalty cases.
- Wrongful Conviction Seminar: This 2-credit seminar is a product of the Law School’s Innocence Project and is offered each fall. Students enrolled in this seminar will study, and aim to identify, instances where a factually-innocent defendant was wrongfully convicted. Those who enroll in this course receive priority status in registering for the Innocence Project’s spring clinic, although enrollment in the spring clinic is not necessary for enrollment in the fall seminar. This course satisfies the Upper Level Writing Requirement.
- Domestic Violence Seminar: This 2-credit seminar is generally taught once each year and explores the dynamics of domestic violence as well as the law’s response to it in the civil and criminal context. This course satisfies the Upper Level Writing Requirement.
- Ethics in the Criminal Law: This 2-credit course is generally taught once each year, and focuses on the most common ethical issues arising in the practice of criminal law.
- Evidence: This 4-credit course is generally taught only in the fall each year, and surveys the Federal Rules of Evidence. This course should be a top priority for those considering practice in the criminal law, and is highly recommended even for those who are not. Evidence is a tested subject on the bar exam.
- Scientific Evidence: This 3-credit course is offered most years and provides advanced study of issues arising in the use of scientific evidence.
- Selected Topics in Evidence: This 2-credit course is offered periodically and provides advanced instruction in selected complex areas of evidence law.
- Trial Advocacy: This 2-credit course is also known as Law Skills III and is mandatory in the fall of the second year.
- Advanced Trial Practice: This 3-credit course is generally offered in the fall and builds upon skills studied in Law Skills III, Trial Advocacy.
Electives of Related Interest in Other AreasStudents aiming to round out their study of criminal law by taking courses in other areas that may nevertheless touch upon, or have implications for, the criminal law may wish to consider the following electives:
- Civil Rights Litigation
- Children and the Law
- Advanced Legal Research
- Interviewing and Counseling
- Animal Law
- Law of War
- Immigration Law
- Human Rights Seminar
- Race, Religion and the Law
Upper-Level Writing RequirementStudents may satisfy their Upper Level Writing Requirement (ULWR) in any ULWR-designated course. In the criminal law curriculum, both the Wrongful Convictions Seminar and Domestic Violence Seminar satisfy this requirement. Students also may satisfy the requirement by seeking out faculty in this area to supervise them on an independent study of a criminal law topic.
- Children's Defense Clinic: This 6-credit clinic is offered each year and offers students with their third-year practice certificate an opportunity to represent at-risk youth in delinquency proceedings.
- Institute for Actual Innocence: This 2-credit clinic is offered each spring and has a limited enrollment of eight students, with priority given to those students who took the Wrongful Convictions Seminar the previous fall. Students in this clinic screen, investigate, and identify cases where there is substantial evidence of wrongful conviction, preparing those cases for post-trial litigation.
- Clinical Placement Program: Choose from a variety of placements in state and federal prosecutor and public defender offices, as well as placements in judicial chambers. These placements range from 5–7 credits and are offered both semesters each year.
Pro Bono Opportunities
- Pro Bono Criminal Appeals Program: Students work on criminal cases at the appellate level from petition stage to end. Students with their third-year practice certificate may appear in court to argue these cases.
- Protective Order Project: Students provide legal assistance to victims of domestic violence seeking protective orders against their abusers. Students with their third-year practice certificate may appear in court to represent their clients.
- Prisoner Reentry Program: Students participate in an intensive rehabilitation program for newly released federal offenders, providing pro bono legal assistance to participants on a variety of civil matters.
- Youth Court Project Assistants: Students work with the Youth Court, which is a youth-centered peer court designed to hold student offenders (respondents) accountable for their actions without disrupting their educational progress. The goal of youth court is to divert low-level offenders from the juvenile justice system while providing services to promote long-term behavioral change.
Criminal Law FacultyUniversity of Richmond School of Law is fortunate to have a highly-distinguished criminal law faculty.
- John Douglass: Professor Douglass is a former federal prosecutor and one of the leading national authorities on the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause.
- Ron Bacigal: Professor Bacigal is the leading authority on Virginia criminal procedure, and is the Official Court Reporter for the Virginia Court of Appeals.
- Hank Chambers: Professor Chambers is a prolific scholar who publishes both inside and outside of the criminal law arena. He is a member of the American Law Institute’s Members Consultative Group on the Model Penal Code: Sentencing.
- Corinna Lain: Professor Lain is an accomplished scholar who writes on Supreme Court decisionmaking in the death penalty and constitituional criminal procedure contexts. Her articles have appeared in several of the nation’s top law reviews.
Additionally, our practitioners who teach courses in this area include a federal district judge, a Virginia Supreme Court Justice, and a number of the Commonwealth’s most well-respected prosecutors and defense attorneys.