Serving the State, Serving Students
The Prosecution Assistance Program aids Wyoming’s prosecuting attorneys, the Wyoming attorney general and the U.S. district attorney while offering law students hands-on experience.
By Micaela Myers
Not long ago, a man convicted of molesting a girl over many years was challenging that conviction. The fate of this case rested in part in the hands of University of Wyoming College of Law students.
“One of the things I emphasize to the students is that this is no longer moot court. This isn’t a chance for you to practice something. There is a girl out there who is now a teenager. She knows there’s a system that she’s relying on to keep her safe. If this case gets overturned, then that guy is probably coming back out. Each semester, your job is to protect the citizens of the state of Wyoming. We take that gravely, seriously,” says Darrell Jackson, faculty director of the Prosecution Assistance Program, a practical legal clinic for third-year law students.
For more than 20 years, the clinic has assisted Wyoming county, district and prosecuting attorneys, as well as the Wyoming attorney general and the United States attorney for the District of Wyoming. Thus far, the clinic has worked with 16 of the 23 Wyoming counties, but Jackson is on a mission to reach the rest.
“I want every county to know—even if you’re the smallest county—we’re here to serve you the same way we serve Laramie or Cheyenne,” Jackson says. Whether it’s preparing a trial brief or motion, conducting research or arguing in front of the Wyoming Supreme Court, the students assist these state attorneys, saving their offices time and money, while the students learn valuable skills.
Christyne Martens took part in the clinic as a law student at UW and now works with clinic students in her role as supervising attorney general at the Wyoming attorney general’s office. “I really love working with the clinic,” she says. “I think it’s a truly valuable service to the students and the state. The emphasis on clinical experience is one of the things that really makes UW stand out. I just can’t say enough about the ways it sets you up to go out and do good things in the world and how important it is for getting that first job.”
The Prosecution Assistance Program is one of the reasons Kevin Farrelly of Portland, Ore., choose UW. “The clinic has been where I’ve taken the theory and put it into practice,” says Farrelly, who serves as the student director of the program, noting that clinic experiences at other law schools are much more limited.
In addition to providing unprecedented experiential learning, the clinic is a valuable service to the state, Farrelly says: “Our goal is to assist the prosecutors throughout the state.” These attorneys generally have small offices and are swamped with trials. Aiding them often means handling appeals directly or through the attorney general’s office.
“There are very few, if any, law schools that have their students in front of the state supreme court as much as this law school does,” Jackson says. “To me, that says leaps and bounds about the state itself and the students we’re producing.”
Martens says the students’ work directly helps the state keep criminals behind bars, but the well-prepared lawyers who emerge are equally important: “No matter where a student lands—whether they decide to be a prosecutor or a defense attorney or go into private practice—lawyers are charged with safeguarding so many fundamental rights.” Therefore, producing top-quality attorneys is also an invaluable service to the state.