Criminal Law

KU Law offers a unique and varied curriculum in criminal law. Students explore criminal justice issues in depth and gain hands-on experience in trial settings.


All KU Law students take Criminal Law during their first year of law school, gaining a basic understanding of the criminal justice system. Students complete their first year with a strong foundation in criminal law.

Second- and third-year students can expand their knowledge through classes and hands-on learning opportunities. Specialized courses cover topics including capital punishment, juvenile law and mass incarceration. 

By participating in related clinical or field placement programs, KU Law students can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to actual criminal proceedings. Options include the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies – where students represent inmates incarcerated in state and federal institutions in habeas corpus and appellate proceedings – and the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement.

Faculty bring experience as prosecutors, defense attorneys or judges to the classroom and to supervising clinics. Most of the faculty have served as clerks for state or federal judges. Many have published extensively and are nationally recognized experts in their field.

Criminal Law Curriculum Guide

Required Courses:

  • Criminal Law

Recommended Upper-Level Courses:

  • Advanced Criminal Procedure
  • Capital Punishment
  • Criminal Practice in Kansas
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Criminal Prosecution Field Placement
  • Juvenile Law
  • Mass Incarceration
  • Sex Crimes

Course descriptions

  • Criminal Procedure introduces students to the constitutional underpinnings of the criminal process, beginning with law enforcement and the investigative stages.
  • Advanced Criminal Procedure expands on the issues covered in the first-year course and emphasizes pretrial and trial proceedings.
  • Students in Juvenile Law study juvenile courts and principles of law, psychology and physiology related to juvenile offenders.
  • In the Capital Punishment seminar, students focus not only on the constitutional provisions and rules of procedure that apply in death penalty cases but also on policy questions inherent in utilizing death as punishment.

Students who want to hone their skills in trial settings can complete the Advocacy Skills Certificate. You’ll get a solid grounding in all aspects of litigation, while gaining hands-on experience through a related clinic or field placement.

The university’s Traffic Court offers law students a chance to get experience serving as prosecutors, defense attorneys or judges. The court handles appeals for on-campus traffic citations.

Law students may also volunteer to serve as mentors and court advocates for juveniles involved in the criminal justice system in the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for Douglas County.  Second- and third-year students may work part-time during the school year in prosecutors' offices or offices handling criminal defense or may serve as law clerks during the summer. 

Members of the criminal law faculty bring a wealth of experience to the classroom and to supervision in the clinics. Students learn from former federal prosecutors, public defenders and private practitioners.

Full faculty list


Jean Phillips
Director, Project for Innocence
Director, Clinical Programs
Clinical Professor of Law