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Public Interest Law Project

Todd Smith

October 09, 2019

  • Todd Smith

Portland, Oregon

This summer, I worked at Metropolitan Public Defender as a research and writing law student. My position consisted of working with both criminal attorneys as well as attorneys within the community law division. For the criminal cases, I wrote motions to suppress, motions for judgment of acquittal, reviewed police reports and discovery files, and attended quite a few trials, often meeting the clients whose cases I worked on. I was afforded the opportunity to work on a wide array of criminal issues, ranging from possession of a controlled substance to criminally negligent homicide. Aside from case work, I was also tasked with writing memos concerning topics such as the admissibility of electronic communications in trials, as well as how the Confrontation Clause applies to a case regarding a co-defendant’s statements in a case concerning conspiracy to commit murder.  In addition to casework and memos concerning MPD’s clients, I was also able to take a few trips to MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, where I assisted with providing legal information for the youth who recently arrived to the facility, as well as worked on Post-Conviction relief for some of the more established youth.

In the community law division, I worked primarily on motions to waive fines and fees and motions to reduce felonies to misdemeanors. This aspect of my summer work exposed me to a great amount of client interaction. In order to draft these motions, I had to meet with clients one-on-one and discuss their personal history as well as the trajectory of their current case. In connection with the Community Law division, I attended Legal Services Day, a program in which we helped hundreds of clients expunge their records and waive hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and fees, removing substantial barriers in their attempt in moving forward with their lives.

A few highlights of my summer included working on a very sensitive Motion to Reopen for an undocumented client who was facing deportation. Another highlight of the summer was traveling to Salem, where we lobbied the legislature to pass an extremely important bill that concerned funding for the public defense system in Oregon which was found to be unconstitutional.

Receiving the PILP stipend allowed me to work in the field in which I am passionate without having to worry about financial obligations during the summer. With the PILP stipend, my passion for working in the public interest field (more specifically, public defense) was solidified, and I felt as though I could focus all of my energy into serving the indigent clients within the community.

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