The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) is a law school clinical program providing a unique educational opportunity for law students to investigate and litigate possible wrongful convictions. NCIP also works to promote legal reforms aimed at remedying the systemic problems within our criminal justice system that lead to wrongful convictions.
Supervised by experienced legal staff, NCIP law students evaluate innocence claims by reviewing case histories, appellate briefs, transcripts, and other records. They participate directly in the investigation process by interviewing prisoners, witnesses, crime lab personnel, law enforcement, defense attorneys, and prosecutors. As part of their case work, NCIP students draft legal documents including motions, declarations, briefs, legal memoranda, and letters to attorneys, clients, and case rounds memos. Students also attend and participate in court proceedings.
Credit: NCIP is a year-long program (Fall and Spring semesters), available to 2L and 3L students. Students enroll for at least three units of academic credit per semester. For each unit of credit, a student is responsible for 50 hours of participation, including case work and class attendance. To enroll in NCIP for a grade, you should enroll under 505A. If you would like to enroll for credit/no credit, enroll under course number 505B. If you would like to enroll for more than three units of class per semester, you must enroll in those additional units under 505B for credit/no credit. Because NCIP is a year-long course, no grade will be awarded until the end of the second semester. NCIP meets the Professional Skills Requirement and is a Public Interest and Social Justice Law Certificate course. Students can take a maximum of 6 units of graded credit from any combination of NCIP course credit (i.e., NCIP A and B and Advanced Practice A and B). Any additional units will be graded on a Credit/No Credit basis only.
Training and Education: All NCIP students are required to attend an intensive two-day training session known as “NCIP Boot Camp” near the beginning of the fall semester. Students attend classes twice weekly which focus on post-conviction law and issues relevant to wrongful conviction. Class topics include federal and state habeas corpus procedures, post-conviction DNA testing, investigation techniques, witness interview strategies, the science of DNA testing, and the causes and possible remedies for wrongful convictions. Students engage in more specialized writing projects such as motions for post-conviction DNA testing and petitions for writs of habeas corpus. Students also may have an opportunity to tour a local crime lab or coroner’s office and conduct legal interviews with prison inmates.