University of Wisconsin–Madison

Criminal Appeals Project

The Criminal Appeals Project combines classwork on appellate procedure, client-centered representation on appeal, issue spotting and persuasive writing with work on actual criminal appeal cases assigned by the Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office. The clinic runs from fall through spring and is open to second and third-year law students.

course Curriculum


Under attorney supervision, students work in pairs on criminal appeals. Appeals are timed so that the trial transcripts begin arriving early in the fall semester. Assuming that a case has merit, briefing for the Court of Appeals takes place during spring semester. Please note that students must make a 2-semester commitment to ensure they can take a case from start to finish.

In the fall semester, students take a 3-credit class, "Advanced Criminal Procedure: Representing the Criminal Appellant," along with an additional 2 credits of clinical work. This class qualifies for the 60-credit rule. The class meets twice a week, with one class focusing on appellate procedure, the ethics of appellate representation, issue spotting and methods of persuasion, and the other discussing issues that arise in their cases. Students also meet with their clients, read transcripts, and analyze their cases in meetings with their supervising attorney. 

During spring semester, students enroll in the same two courses for 4-5 credits. Most of the work focuses on postconviction motions or hearings and/or writing appellate briefs.

how to apply


The Criminal Appeals Project is currently accepting applications for the 2019-20 academic year. Interested students should consult the project information sheet and application form.  Enrollment is limited. To ensure consideration, students should submit their applications by April 18, 2019. Questions may be directed to Tristan Breedlove (breedlovet@opd.wi.gov) and Catherine Malchow (malchowc@opd.wi.gov).  For more information on the classroom portion of this project, please see the course description on the Law School's web site.

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