Criminal Law and Practice Focus Area

The Criminal Law and Practice Focus Area is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in substantive and procedural criminal law and the litigation skills needed to practice in this area. Criminal Law and Evidence are courses that are required of all law students, but they have special relevance for students intending to engage in the practice of criminal law. Criminal Procedure Investigative provides an introduction to the constitutional rules constraining law enforcement in criminal investigations and pretrial detentions, and Criminal Procedure Adjudicative addresses the constitutional and statutory framework governing criminal prosecution from the time of formal charging through to sentencing. The skills courses required for this focus area are designed to provide both theoretical and practical training in preparing criminal cases for settlement or trial. Note that the Youth Advocacy Clinic assigns students to represent juveniles in juvenile court who are charged as offenders in Juvenile Court.

Requirements of the Focus Area

Students wishing to complete the Criminal Law and Practice Focus Area must take three foundational courses (Evidence, Criminal Procedure Investigative, and Criminal Procedure Adjudicative) and a series of skills courses (Comprehensive Pretrial Advocacy and either Youth Advocacy Clinic, Comprehensive Trial Advocacy, or Trial Techniques). In addition, students must choose at least two courses from a list of electives. Note that although Sentencing and Plea Bargaining is listed as an elective and therefore not required, students pursuing this focus area who have the opportunity to take Sentencing and Plea Bargaining are strongly encouraged to do so. This important course addresses the legal, practical, and policy concerns inherent in the pretrial plea negotiation process and in sentencing upon conviction.

Students Who Should Pursue This Focus

The Criminal Law and Practice Focus Area is designed for students who plan to practice criminal law, whether as prosecutors or as criminal defense attorneys. Criminal trial practice is the kind of law practice in which lawyers are most likely to have extensive trial litigation opportunities and experience. Therefore, students who plan to combine criminal practice with other areas of practice such as civil rights litigation or personal injury litigation may wish to consider completing the criminal law focus area to provide a comprehensive background in the skills and knowledge needed for a practice emphasizing litigation on behalf individuals.

Criminal Practice Faculty

Career Faculty
Deborah Ahrens Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Investigative, Evidence
Janet Ainsworth Child, Family and State, Criminal Procedure Investigative
Christian Halliburton Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Investigative
Paul Holland Youth Advocacy Clinic
John Mitchell Evidence, Evidence Lab, Forensics
Anna Roberts Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Adjudicative
Ron Slye International Criminal Law
John Strait* Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Adjudicative

* Focus Area Chair

Emeritus Faculty
Dave Boerner Criminal Law


Professors from Practice
Robert Boruchowitz Criminal Procedure Adjudicative, Youth Advocacy Clinic, Right to Counsel Clinic


Adjunct Faculty
Timothy Crandell Medical Fraud, White Collar Crime
Mike Finkle Law, Policy & Mental Health
Robert Goldsmith Criminal Motions Practice
Russell Kurth Mental Health Court Clinic
Mark Larranaga Capital Punishment Seminar
Linda Portnoy Criminal Motions Practice

Focus Area Requirements

Plan the completion of your focus area with a focus area tracking form.

Course Descriptions

Foundational Courses (all courses required)

  • Criminal Procedure Adjudicative (3 cr)
  • Criminal Procedure Investigative (3 cr)
  • Evidence (4 cr)

Skills Component Courses (at least two courses required)

  • Comprehensive Pretrial Advocacy (4 cr) and
  • Comprehensive Trial Advocacy (4 cr); or
    Youth Advocacy Clinic (6 cr)
  • Criminal Motions Practice (3 cr)
  • Mental Health Court Clinic (3 cr)

Elective Courses (at least two courses required)

  • Capital Punishment Seminar (3 cr)
  • Criminal Law Externship (3-4 cr)
  • Evidence Lab (1 cr)
  • Forensics (3 cr)
  • International Criminal Law (3 cr)
  • Law, Policy and Mental Health (3 cr)
  • Medical Fraud (3 cr)

Additional Related Courses

These courses are not part of the focus area but are sufficiently related that students might want to take one or more of these in conjunction with the focus:

  • Administrative Law
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Child, Family and State
  • Federal Courts
  • Immigration Law
  • Washington State Constitutional Law Seminar