Defender Aid Program
The Wyoming Defender Aid Program is a statewide legal assistance program for indigent persons convicted of crimes. Third-year law students assist assigned counsel and public defenders in criminal appeals, and, on rare occasions, in trial court proceedings. A significant part of the program's work involves appeals in the Wyoming Supreme Court, where students write appellate briefs and argue before the court. Students are also involved with other post-conviction matters, interviewing prisoners at the Wyoming State Penitentiary, engaging in legal research, preparing petitions for relief and requests for assigned counsel, and participating actively in judicial proceedings.
The Defender Aid Program has two primary goals. The first is to provide quality representations to indigent persons convicted of felonies in the Wyoming State courts. The second goal is to give student interns practical experience in the area of criminal law. Students, supervised by the faculty director, brief cases and present oral arguments before the Wyoming Supreme Court, prepare motions for sentence reduction, and handle other post-conviction matters. Satisfying Defender Aid's many requests for help requires that student interns actively participate in all facets of representation.
The Defender Aid Program also includes a classroom component of weekly sessions covering such topics as various aspects of criminal law and procedure, ethical issues, client relations, and effective appellate advocacy.
A substantial portion of the caseload of Defender Aid consists of direct appeals to the Wyoming Supreme Court assigned to Defender Aid by the State Public Defender. Other cases arise from the numerous letters we receive from inmates. The Defender Aid Program is also the primary source of free legal assistance with post-conviction matters (other than direct appeals) for indigent Wyoming inmates at the state penitentiary and women's center. The State Public Defender's primary post-conviction responsibilities are limited to direct appeals from convictions. Although the State Public Defender is authorized to provide post-conviction assistance in capital matters and in other matters at its discretion, its resources for such proceedings are quite limited. As a result, Defender Aid has been and continues to be a vital resource for indigent inmates.
The Defender Aid Program operates throughout the year, during both semesters of the academic year and through the summer. During the school year, students enroll in the Program for academic credit, earning three hours each semester for working not less than 150 hours. In the summer, most of the students are employed through the work-study program, and work full time.