Appellate Defender Division of the Montana State Public Defender

Field Placement
Academic Year/Summer

Faculty Supervisor

Professor Jordan Gross

Supervising Attorney

Koan Mercer


Professional Responsibility, Trial Practice

Pre-Requisite or Co-Requisite

Criminal Procedure - Investigative, Criminal Procedure - Adjudicative


Appellate Advocacy

Areas of Emphasis

Appellate Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Professional Responsibility, appellate practice, criminal practice, research, and writing.

Sample Projects

  • Brief an appeal in the Montana Supreme Court

General Information

The Appellate Defender Division of the Montana State Public Defender (OAD) is a sub-unit 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 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.

Students in this placement 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 then participates 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 also sends a copy to the client and consult with the client either by telephone or in-person in prison.  The student then finalizes and files the client’s opening brief.  The student also communicates 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 reviews the response and prepares a reply.  As with the opening brief, this entails 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 is invited to prepare and conduct that argument.