Criminal Prosecution Certification Track

As a further reaching alternative to the Prosecution Clinic, we students have suggested a Prosecution Track; it’s outline is below.

  1. Course Requirements. To obtain the certificate, a student must complete the following course requirements:
    1. Level 1

i.     Criminal Law

ii.     Criminal Procedure Investigation

iii.     Criminal Procedure Adjudication

iv.     Evidence

  1. Level 2 *Students self-select from this level in addition to taking the prosecutorial discretion seminar (constructed by Professor Ambrose and Professor Covington.) This would be the social justice component of the certification.

i.     Prosecutorial Discretion Seminar (Required)

ii.     Poverty Law (One of two choice classes)

iii.     Critical Race Theory (One of two choice classes

  1. Level 3

i.     Trial Ad I

ii.     Trial Ad II

iii.     Special Topics in Prosecution Seminar—lead by instructor for KCPO

  1. This is to be done in conjunction with the writing requirement.
  2. Writing Requirement. To obtain the certificate, a student must complete one paper that involves substantial independent research and also satisfies both of the following criteria:
    1. The paper must focus on topics relevant to prosecution, prosecutorial discretion, and/or collateral consequences.
    2. The paper must satisfy the writing requirement for graduation.
  3. Internship/Externship Support.
    1. A UW Law staff will be made available for coaching and support for those student who are pursuing the Criminal Prosecution Certification at UW Law.
  4. Grade Point Requirement for the Certification. The student must maintain a grade point average of B (3.00) or better in courses taken and selected as qualifying for the Certificate. (This requirement is subject to change depending on any changes in the grading system or required mean that might be adopted by the faculty.)

 

Why is this a more viable option?

–       We already have a number of these classes available. KCPO has already said they want to involve one of their staff members in education at UW Law.

–       The selected staff member will still teach a course and KCPO and UW can still partner to develop a program that produces socially-minded prosecutors.

–       This is a win/win for everyone.

  • Those students who desire to be prosecutors will receive legal resources and attention that is specifically directed at their chosen career.
  • The integrity of both the legal education and clinical work at UW Law is preserved and honored.
  • There is a very limited chance of doing community harm through a prosecutorial certification track.

 

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A legal clinic, offered by UW Law, forces law students to support a biased criminal justice system

(This article, written by a UW Law student, was originally published in “Real Change,” July 24, 2013.)

For the past few months, students, faculty and administrators at the University of Washington School of Law (UW Law) have been in the middle of a heated debate regarding a law clinic focused on the prosecution of low-level crimes. In this clinic, the product of a partnership between the UW Law and the King County Prosecutor’s Office (KCPO), qualifying third-year students will represent the state in misdemeanor cases, including trials or pretrial hearings. A senior deputy prosecutor will supervise the students.

Historically, law school clinics have a two-fold purpose: to serve unmet needs in local communities and to better equip students to practice law in the future. The administration of UW Law believes that the prosecutor’s clinic will afford students the opportunity to address the inequities of the criminal justice system.

But many student groups, professors, alumni and community leaders do not support this clinic because they believe it is unjust for a public law school to participate in a program that may contribute to the disparity in resources between defenders and prosecutors.

Personally, as a woman of color from an urban area, I oppose this clinic. I’ve worked in Seattle for 10 years as a youth outreach worker and advocate in the communities most impacted by biased prosecution. The people who may be unfairly prosecuted by students from my law school would be my neighbors.

There is no unmet need for prosecutors in King County, but there is a serious need for defenders. Despite the requests of students, UW Law administrators have yet to implement a legal defense clinic. Instead, they are choosing to partner with KCPO, an office whose own staff members have been cited for using racially biased arguments.

The Washington State Supreme Court has found that KCPO’s own senior deputy prosecutor, James Konat, engaged in “prosecutorial misconduct” stemming from racially charged language. Konat, who has handled some of the region’s most high-profile murder cases, used such language back in 2007, but KCPO did not fire him. Reportedly earning more than $147,000 a year, Konat stayed on until February 2012, when he chose to leave by his own accord.

An additional concern is the role Seattle Police Department (SPD) plays in who gets prosecuted in King County. The SPD has a reputation for racial profiling, which greatly impacts who is picked up, charged and prosecuted. If this clinic is implemented, UW Law students will be prosecuting the most vulnerable members of our Seattle community.

Despite repeated requests from students, UW Law administrators have neglected to develop a comprehensive diversity plan. The law school is one of the few schools at UW that does not require its students to complete a diversity requirement to graduate. If UW Law is serious about addressing inequality in the legal system, then administrators should hire a critical race theorist to train all professors to engage in these conversations, as opposed to funding a criminal prosecution clinic that will educate only eight students per year on these issues.

There are many ways to teach students about the criminal justice system and inequality without risking the potential harm to our neighbors.

Many argue that the prosecution clinic can do a lot of good if it is done well, however details of the educational components of the clinic have been in a state of flux. There’s some evidence that Seattle University School of Law administrators rejected the prosecution clinic after a two-year deliberation process led them to decide it was unjust. In 2013, with limited deliberation, UW Law presented the clinic as a course for the 2013-2014 academic year without following its own stipulated protocols for course development.

UW Law is a public service law school in a public university. It is not in the best interest of our neighbors — the public — to pursue this prosecution clinic. There are many other, more efficient methods to develop good prosecutors, educate law students and benefit the community.  We have some of the brightest minds in the country in King County and at UW Law. I am sure we can come up with a stronger, more equitable option for all.

Despite Contrary Assertions, KCPO did not Seek Candidates Committed to Racial Justice

Emails from the public disclosure request lodged by UW students with the King County Prosecutor’s Office show that while the prosecutor’s office was assuring the law school that their candidates had been vetted for their commitment to racial justice, they had in fact done no such vetting. In fact, no additional searching or interviewing was conducted at all – they simply re-submitted the same candidates that had already been submitted to Seattle University’s canceled clinic. It seems that the KCPO is taking the position that everyone who works there has demonstrated a commitment to racial justice.

Their record demonstrates no such thing (See previous posts including “Prosecutor Rejects Juror Because of Race” and “Who’s Teaching Us Racial Justice?”). And their internal communications show that KCPO has failed once again to take the issue seriously. KCPO paid lip service to racial justice while scoffing and disregarding the issues behind closed doors. This collaboration could have been taken as an opportunity to show off their best face. Instead, the office of the prosecutor has turned away from the challenge and opted for business as usual. When the lives of our citizens and our moral center are at stake, that’s not good enough.

 

This post was authored by yet another UW Law Alum who reviewed the King County Prosecutor’s Office documents we unearthed via a public disclosure request.

FOIA Request Reveals Clinic Failed to Address Race Concerns Before Student Outcry

Although Dean Testy and other members of UW Law’s administration currently emphasize the potential for a prosecution clinic to effectively address racial disparities in the law, emails revealed by a recent FOIA request filed with KCPAO show that issues surrounding prosecutorial discretion and racial disparities in the criminal justice system were not considerations involved in the development of the clinic.

The emails detail that the clinic was initially developed between KCPAO and Seattle University School of Law during September 2012. The proposed clinic at SU Law was to be led by a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney who would develop curriculum and serve as a full-time visiting professor.

After SU decided not to proceed with the clinic in February 2013, UW Law took steps to establish a similar class. By March 22, 2013, UW Law had issued a draft Memoradum of Understanding (MOU) laying out specifics for the implementation of a prosecution clinic. While the MOU stated clear goals of providing students with opportunities to develop trial advocacy and professional skills, it did not mention racial or social justice in any section.

It wasn’t until April 3, 2013 that issues of prosecutorial discretion were brought up to KCPAO by UW Law over email.  It took UW Law until June 7, 2013 to develop a proposal of integrating racial justice into the clinic’s curriculum.

So although UW Law’s administration repeatedly told student leaders in meetings held after the clinic’s announcement on April 2, 2013 that racial justice had always been an element of the clinic’s proposed curriculum, we now know that racial justice was not a part of the formal plan for the clinic as communicated to KCPAO.

The emails also indicate that UW Law’s belated attempt to address racial justice caught KCPAO off guard. One instructor candidate from KCPAO expressed dismay at UW Law’s June 7th proposal to include racial justice issues in the clinic’s curriculum, stating that the proposed materials were “more political than clinical.” So while UW Law has told student leaders that the clinic’s instructors will have a “demonstrated commitment to addressing problems of racial disparity,” instructor candidates have expressed an aversion to materials addressing racial justice.

This unsettling revelation about development of the clinic’s goals and curriculum is just the latest example of UW Law blundering on issues of race. UW Law has struggled to teach issues of race in a classroom setting. There are no common standards or goals for addressing race in core curriculum. The sole academic class dedicated to exploring issues of race, Race and the Law, was founded solely 5 years ago and does not have consistent quality in instruction. And unlike other major programs within the University of Washington, UW Law does not have a diversity plan.

Creating a prosecution clinic that can thoughtfully address racial justice issues is a challenge for institutions with a proven commitment to those issues. For an institution that does not have a commitment to racial justice, creating such a clinic may be impossible.  UW Law has mislead student leaders by insisting that racial justice has been a major consideration from the clinic’s inception, casting doubt on UW Law’s ability to deliver an inclusive, innovative curriculum for a prosecution clinic.

 

This post was authored by a UW Alum who reviewed the King County Prosecutor’s Office documents we unearthed via a public disclosure request.

Prosecutor Rejects Juror Because of Race

Here are some of the highlights from the recent King County Prosecutor’s Office case where it was found that they rejected a juror based on race:

— The KCPO showed its awareness of racial disparities by asking potential jurors if they had knowledge of racial disparities and if this knowledge would make them more lenient to black defendants.  So it appears that KCPO is in fact aware that racial inequities exist, and it wants to ensure that such knowledge wouldn’t impact potential jurors’ decisions.  Certainly this is not what UW Law administration means by using the clinic to familiarize us students with racial disparities.

— Among its various excuses, the KCPO also said it rejected the juror because he had been on a jury previously that failed to reach a verdict.  As it turned out, that was the other potential black juror.  KCPO had confused the two black potential jurors–a fact which they admitted in their briefs and then denied in their oral argument.

— KCPO then said that they rejected the juror because he raised his hand to indicate that he did not think past conduct would have a bearing on determining guilt or innocence; however, the KCPO did not strike 15 jurors who answered the same way.

—  KCPO said that they rejected the juror because he used the term “brother;” the Division I Court of Appeals wisely held that this “explanation conjures up racial overtones, particularly where both the defense counsel and the defendant are black.”

Yet these are the people UW Law has chosen to teach us about racial disparities.

On to the full story…

Last summer, the King County Prosecutor’s Office (KCPO) was called out for rejecting jurors because they were African American.  In under 10 pages, the Division I Court of Appeals considered the excuses proffered by the KCPO and found that:

“the proffered reasons for the strike are unsupported by the record, appear ‘pretextual’ because similar jurors were not excused from sitting, or appear to be mere “proxy” reasons for racially motivated excusal.”

To put it in legal terms, the KCPO lost a Batson case.*

This decision came just two months after UW Law administration decided to host a prosecution clinic with the KCPO.  When students and community members suggested it was not a good use of resources, the administration began to describe the clinic as one that would help sensitize students to issues of racial disparities.

But according to many of us students, UW Law has not shown an interest in racial justice. In fact, students at UW Law have been asking for a Critical Race Theorist and a Diversity Plan for years; we have neither.  Then, after just two months of emails between faculty and prosecutors, we have a Prosecution Clinic claiming to be concerned with racial justice.

We already had evidence that KCPO and UW Law are hostile toward or chronically disinterested in racial justice, and this case gives us another perspective on the culture at KCPO and less directly, the culture at UW Law, as the school insists on staying the course with its hurtful plan to team-teach a prosecution clinic with KCPO.

In the decision, State of Washington v. Misty Lou Cook and Pierre Daniel Spencer-Wade, we get to see a bit more into the culture of the prosecutor’s office which is teaming up with our own UW Law.

The KCPO said that they rejected this juror (Juror No. 34) not because of race but due to a variety of reasons, including that he used the term, “brother.”  The Division I Court of Appeals wrote that the term’s “use by the State in its purported race-neutral explanation conjures up racial overtones, particularly where both the defense counsel and the defendant are black.”

Another KCPO explanation: Juror No. 34 had set on a jury that had been unable to reach a verdict.  However, the record showed that it was Juror No. 5, the only other black juror.  In “its briefing, the State conceded that the prosecutor confused Juror No 34 with the other African-American juror, No. 5, but at oral argument the State retracted this concession.”  So in brief the KCPO actually admitted that it could not discern between the two black potential jurors.  And then they unadmitted in court.  We students believe this further indicates that KCPO cannot teach UW Law students about racial disparity because they have a culture more concerned with winning than with justice.

Another reason the King County Prosecutor claimed to have stricken No. 34 was that he “missed a simple corroboration question.”  In fact 15 other potential jurors answered similarly, and 5 of them were selected for the jury.  (And what’s more is that No. 34’s reply was correct and in line with the rules of evidence.)  Citing precedent, the court quoted: “if the State asserts that it struck a black juror with a particular characteristic, and it also accepted nonblack jurors with that same characteristic, this is evidence that the asserted justification was a pretext for discrimination…”

Interestingly, the Court of Appeals wrote that “it was the State who first raised the issue of Spencer-Wade’s race.  The prosecutor spoke of racial inequities suffered by African-Americans and inquired into any bias the jurors might have that would make them more lenient toward [the defendant] because of his race.” So it appears that KCPO is in fact aware that racial inequities exist, and it wants to ensure that such knowledge wouldn’t impact potential jurors’ decisions.

So, again, please write the decision makers and let them know that this clinic is an awful idea, for many reasons, including the culture at KCPO and UW Law’s reluctance to act on diversity issues students have pushed for years. See previous blog entries for ideas on what your letter could look like.  The decision makers can be contacted at:

Dean Testy <lawdean@uw.edu>, Prof. Maranville <maran@uw.edu>, UW President Michael Young <pres@uw.edu>, UW Provost <provost@uw.edu>, Board of Regents <regents@uw.edu>

Please tell them why UW Law needs a Critical Race Theorist and a Diversity Plan; tell them to cancel the prosecution clinic and to commit to clinics that address unmet legal needs. And if you like, Cc us at uwlawracialjustice@gmail.com  Please be kind and respectful; the administration has been both, and anyway, honey attracts more bees than vinegar.

###

*In Batson v. Kentucky, the United States Supreme Court set forth a three-part analysis to determine whether a member of the venire was peremptorily challenged pursuant to discriminatory criteria. First, a defendant must establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination. Second, if the defendant establishes a prima facie case, then the burden shifts to the State to articulate a race-neutral explanation for challenging the juror. Third, the trial court considers the explanation of the State and determines whether the defendant has established purposeful discrimination.

Direct Action Around the Clinic, a DP & CRT

August 30, 2013

To Whom It May Concern at SU Law and UW Law:

RE: UW Law (and now SU’s) new Prosecution Clinic

UW Law administrators and faculty have chosen to pursue a collaborative effort with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to convict people for misdemeanors in King County.  Recently we learned SU students will be able to participate also.

The administration says it is a great chance for students to develop their advocacy skills, and that they’ll be sensitized to topics of race and the law, and racial disparities in particular.

However, we know better.

We know that just two months ago the KCPO lost–on appeal–a case for rejecting jurors based on race.

We know that the year before that, a senior prosecutor–Konat–got called out by the Washington Supreme Court for telling jurors that they shouldn’t pay any mind to the black witnesses.

We know through these and other interactions that the KCPO is focused on simply fighting full force, with little to no awareness about racial justice.

UW Law doesn’ t see a problem with all this.  That’s not surprising in an institution where we have three African American faculty.  We have no diversity plan.  No critical race theorist.  And though students have been pushing for a DP and a CRT for years, we have been consistently ignored by the administration and faculty.

The time has come for us to say enough is enough.

We are organizing for a direct action against UW Law, against the Prosecution Clinic and for a Diversity Plan and a Critical Race Theorist at UW Law.  The time, date, and location are to be determined.  We know we will have music, poetry, representatives of concerned community groups…

How can we stop this Clinic?  How can we promote racial justice?  How can we convince an almost-exclusively white and privileged institution like UW Law that they shouldn’t team up with the KCPO?

When the Supreme Court came down on Konat’s case two years ago, the NAACP called for him to be fired.  Instead he was allowed to use up all his vacation time, keep making that $142K/yr and then quietly leave the office just last year.

No.  No more quiet.  No more, “we don’t have money for a diversity plan,” no more one-sided support of the prosecutor, no more intentional blindness with lips blandly referencing “The New Jim Crow” and thinly excusing their pre-determined course of action by alleging an awareness of “racial disparities.”

The time for action is now.  Please email us at uwlawracialjustice@gmail.com to get involved.

Yours,
UW Law Students

Expanding Injustice

We recently received word that Seattle University students will also be participating in the ill-conceived UW Law Prosecution Clinic.

 

This comes just two months after the King County Prosecutor’s Office lost a Batson Case on appeal, meaning that the KCPO had rejected jurors solely because of their race.  And yet UW and now SU expect KCPO to teach us about racial disparities.

More coming soon on the Batson case.