Three Strikes Project: Criminal Justice Reform & Individual Representation

Romano, M. (PI)
Section Number
This seminar offers an opportunity to study mass incarceration and criminal law reform in real time while getting hands-on experience in active litigation in state and federal courts on behalf of Three Strikes Project clients serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes. In many ways, the era of mass incarceration began in California with the enactment of the "Three Strikes and You're Out" sentencing law in 1994. Today, California leads political and policy trends in the opposite direction with a number of critical reforms to the state's criminal legal system. Some of the momentum shift began with students in the Three Strikes Project, who have helped overturn a record number of life sentences and contributed to critical reforms to California sentencing law. In this course students read and analyze a variety of cases and articles, examining the evolution of incarceration and sentencing policies in California and across the country. Students also assist with live post-conviction litigation on behalf of clients in trial and appellate courts across the country. Students also have the opportunity to contribute to ongoing research, public policy reform. The class focuses largely on the Three Strikes law as a case study in the history, politics, constitutional doctrine, and reform of criminal law policy. The Project has been intimately involved in the movement to reduce incarceration in California and throughout the country, partnering with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Obama administration on different projects including direct legislative reform, impact litigation, executive clemency, and prisoner reentry. Students enrolled in the seminar quickly become involved in all aspects of the Project's work, including assistance with different stages of ongoing litigation. Students will visit a Project client in prison, conduct factual investigations, and draft petitions on our clients' behalf. The Project is an active, fast-paced organization that depends on the hard work and contributions of law students enrolled in this seminar. This seminar offers the opportunity to both study the theory behind the law and to hone practical litigation and advocacy skills in and out of the courtroom. The seminar will meet for 3 hours per week, including 1 hour small group meetings with Project director Michael Romano. CONSENT APPLICATION: Interested students must apply to enroll in the seminar by sending a one-page statement of interest and resume by email with the subject line "application" to Michael Romano ( Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. Elements used in grading: Class Participation, Attendance, Written Assignments.
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail
Academic Year
Section Days
Start Time
2:00 PM
End Time
4:00 PM
LAW 271