Office of Appellate Defender Clinic

Clinical Professor Jeffrey T. Renz

Variable Credit(s)
Fall: LAW 600 24 | Spring: LAW 601 18

Academic Year/Summer

Office of Appellate Defender
Supervising Attorney:
Koan Mercer

Faculty Supervisor:
Clinical Professor Jeff Renz


  • Professional Responsibility (effective for all classes entering Fall 2011 and thereafter).
  • Criminal Procedure, effective Fall 2012

Areas of Law: Appellate Procedure; Constitutional Law; Criminal Law; Criminal Procedure; Professional Responsibility

Lawyering Skills: Appellate practice; Criminal practice; Research and writing

Sample Projects: Brief an appeal in the Montana Supreme Court; Prepare for oral argument before the Montana Supreme Court.

The Montana Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD) is a subunit of the Montana Office of the Public Defender (OPD).  OAD attorneys practice before the Montana Supreme Court and handle the appeals for all OPD clients across the entire state.  These appeals include criminal cases in which incarceration is a possibility, juvenile cases, commitments to the state mental hospital, guardianships, and terminations of parental rights.

Under a Supervising Attorney, a law student selected for this clinic will personally handle appeals before the Montana Supreme Court.  Such work begins with combing the district court record and transcripts and consulting with the client regarding potential appellate claims.  The student will then participate in office brainstorming sessions and draft an opening brief.  The Supervising Attorney, the Chief Appellate Defender and other OAD attorneys will review the brief.  The student will also send a copy to the client and consult with the client either by telephone or through in-person visits to the prison.  The student will then finalize and file the client’s opening brief.  The student will also communicate with opposing counsel at the Attorney General’s Office regarding extensions, corrections of the record, and substantive concessions.

Upon receiving the State’s response brief, the student will review the response and prepare a reply.  As with the opening brief, this will entail close consultation with the client, brainstorming with the rest of OAD, and input from the Supervising Attorney and Chief Appellate Defender.  If the Court orders oral argument, the student will be invited to prepare and conduct that argument.

The clinic will be in Missoula at the Supervising Attorney’s office, although the bulk of OAD is based in Helena.