Criminal Prosecution Field Placement
The Criminal Prosecution Field Placement is one of KU Law's oldest hands-on learning opportunities. It is also one of the few field placement programs in the nation that specializes in criminal prosecution. In the program, KU Law students work side by side with prosecutors in federal, state and local offices in virtually all phases of the criminal justice process. In addition to appearing in court on behalf of the prosecution in both preliminary hearings and trials, participants work closely with law enforcement agencies to develop cases, draft criminal complaints for use in issuing indictments, and help prepare appeals. Among the agencies our students work for are the following:
- U.S. Attorney's Office (Kansas)
- Kansas Attorney General
- Douglas County District Attorney's Office
- Franklin County Attorney's Office
- Johnson County District Attorney's Office
- Osage County Attorney's Office
- Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office
- Lawrence Municipal Court
Students in the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement stand to gain a significant amount of courtroom experience. The program’s director, KU Law Professor Suzanne Valdez, brings to the learning environment her recent experience as a special prosecutor in nearby Wyandotte County, where she was commissioned for four years.
Building confidence through the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement
Thomas ("T.C.") Penland, L’15
As an aspiring prosecutor, the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement program was one of the factors that drew T.C. Penland to KU Law.
The program has two components: a weekly class taught by program director Professor Suzanne Valdez, and an internship with a city or county district attorney’s office. While many legal internships focus on developing research and writing skills, the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement offers courtroom experience as well.
“You’re writing responses to motions, researching the law, learning how to write in a persuasive, competent manner,” Penland said. “I was doing everything in front of a judge short of an actual jury trial.”
Penland recalls one case involving a man who took explicit photos of his mentally handicapped 14-year-old stepdaughter. The defendant argued that the photos were obtained unlawfully and could not be used against him. Penland wrote a response to the defendant’s motion to suppress the photos, and the judge ruled in his favor. “Without the pictures, there was no case,” Penland said. “I felt a lot of satisfaction from prevailing.”
Penland looks forward to applying the skills he learned to his future career as a prosecutor. “The program has given me confidence in my legal research and writing and developed my oral argumentation skills,” he said. “I don’t have a fear of researching, writing or stepping into the courtroom and presenting a case to a judge. That’s a big advantage.”
The Criminal Prosecution Field Placement is open to third-year law students during the academic year for both the fall and spring semesters. Students may also enroll in the summer program, in which second- and third-year students may be considered for placement.