Federal Defenders of Montana

Academic Year

Faculty Supervisor: Adjunct Professor Maylinn Smith

Supervising Attorneys: Joslyn Hunt, John Rhodes, Andy Nelson

Prerequisite: Professional Responsibility

Pre- or Co-Requisite:  Criminal Procedure - Investigative, Criminal Procedure - Adjudicative

Areas of Emphases: Federal criminal law; appellate litigation; legal research and writing; access to justice

Sample Projects
  • Investigate, research and draft sentence mitigation arguments
  • Write Ninth Circuit appeal and petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court
  • Prepare for trial by interviewing witnesses, reviewing discovery, researching legal issues, drafting jury instructions
  • Attend trial
  • Prepare clients for initial court appearances and meet with clients detained in the Missoula County Detention Center

General Information

The mission of the Federal Defenders of Montana is to ensure that the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, the Criminal Justice Act (Title 18 U.S.C. § 3006A), and other congressional mandates are enforced on behalf of those who cannot afford to retain counsel or obtain criminal defense services.  In fulfilling its mission, the Federal Defender program helps to (1) maintain public confidence in the nation's commitment to equal justice under law and (2) ensure the successful operation of the constitutionally-based adversarial system of justice by which both federal criminal laws and federally guaranteed rights are enforced.


Students in this field placement assist the Federal Defenders in providing aggressive and effective legal representation to individuals accused of federal offenses, under investigation for federal criminal violations, or appealing a federal conviction or sentence, as well as providing representation to federal habeas corpus litigants (including those under a sentence of death).  Students work directly with clients, aid with defense investigations, participate in proceedings in the United States District Court (to the extent permitted by the client, the Court and the attorney supervisor), and research trial and appellate issues, write court memoranda in support of pretrial motions, draft briefs to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and draft writs and petitions to the United States Supreme Court.