Law Student Practice in a Prosecuting Attorney's Office

Law Student Practice Rules (PDF)
O.C.G.A 15-18-22 (PDF)
Law Student Practice Forms (Word)
 

Since 1970, Georgia has permitted law students to assist prosecuting attorneys in proceedings before they have been admitted to the practice of law.[1]  Law student practice is currently governed by the Rules of the Georgia Supreme Court[2] and the "The Law School Public Prosecutor Act of 1970."[3]

Under the Supreme Court Rules, a law student who is enrolled at a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association and “has completed at the time of original registration legal studies equivalent to at least two semesters of full-time study,” may apply through the law school the Office of Bar Examiners, https://www.gabaradmissions.org, to be registered as authorized to appear before courts and administrative agencies and perform other legal service while under the supervision of an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia.[4]  The rule specifically allows registered law students to act on behalf of a state, local or other government unit of agency. [5]

The Law School Public Prosecutor Act of 1970 authorizes a district attorney, solicitor-general, the Attorney General, the executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia or the prosecutor for a municipal or recorder's court may apply to have an registered law student law student admitted to practice to  "assist in criminal proceedings within this state as if admitted and licensed to practice law in this state."[6] Because the Law School Public Prosecutor Act of 1970 only permits third-year law students to appear in court on behalf of the State in criminal cases, registered second-year students in a prosecutor’s office are limited to providing advice, preparing legal documents.

Eligibility: To be eligible for registration a law student must meet the following qualifications:
(1)        Be "enrolled at the time of original registration in a school of law approved by the American Bar Association; [7] and
(2)       Have “completed at the time of original registration legal studies equivalent to at least two semesters of full-time study.[8]

Application for registration must be made through the law school to the Office of Bar Admissions. [9]  The application must include certification by the Dean of the law school that the law student is: (a) eligible for registration; (b) in good academic standing; (c) of "good moral character" and prepared to do the legal work; (d) has “read and is familiar with the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and that the student will comply with all provisions of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct;” and has taken the law student practice oath.[9]

If the Office of Bar Admissions approves the law student for registration, the student will be issued a student practice number (similar to a Bar number) that must appear under the signature line of any document that the student signs.[10]  Registration is valid until the student graduates[11] or the registration is terminated by the Director of the Office of Bar Admissions.[12]

Procedure in the trial court: Once the law student has been approved by the Office of Bar Admissions, the prosecuting attorney files a motion in the trial court for an order prescribing the “the form and manner by which such student may participate in proceedings.”[13]  The application should be signed by the elected or appointed head of the office.  If the judge approves the application, the judge must sign an order authorizing the law student to assist the prosecuting attorney and the law student must take and subscribe to "an oath similar to the oath required by a district attorney."[14]

Authority of third-year law students: Law students who have been approved under the Supreme Court’s Law Student Practice Rule may, subject to the “client consent rule], “may, as if admitted and licensed to practice law in Georgia, advise, prepare legal instruments, appear before courts and administrative agencies and otherwise take action on behalf of . . . any state, local, or other government unit or agency.[16] Students admitted under the "The Law School Public Prosecutor Act of 1970" or the Supreme Court Rules "may assist in criminal proceedings within this state as if admitted and licensed to practice law in this state."  This includes:

1. Any activity that the prosecutors office would normally be involved in during the investigation of a case;[17]

2. Preparing the indictment, accusation, juvenile complaint or other charging instrument;[18]

3. Appearing before the grand jury;[19]

4. Handling pretrial motions and hearings;[20]

5. Assisting with the trial "or other legal proceeding by which a person's liability for a crime is investigated or determined..."[21]

6. Preparing and co-signing appellate briefs in the Georgia Supreme Court only.[22]

Any document co-signed by a third year law student must clearly state his or her status and should be co-signed by his or her supervising prosecutor.[23]

Supervision.

Registered law students must be supervised at all times by a prosecutor who is admitted to the practice of law in Georgia.[24]  All briefs, pleadings and charging instruments must be signed by the district attorney, solicitor-general or a designated assistant.[25]  When a third year law student appears in court on behalf of the State, a prosecutor must be physically present.[26]

Termination.

The authority of law student to practice under the "The Law School Public Prosecutor Act of 1970" or the Ga. Supreme Court Rules is terminated:

(1) Upon graduation from law school;[27]

(2) If registration is terminated;[28]

(3) If the student is no longer affiliated with the prosecutor's office.[29]

Law School Graduates.

Once the student graduates, he or she is eligible for the Law School Graduate program.

Forms. The forms packet above was prepared by Alan A. Cook, Director, Prosecutorial Clinic Program, University of Georgia School of Law, 225 Herty Drive, Room 317, Athens, Georgia 30602-6012, and are included by permission

ENDNOTES

[1]           Ga. L. 1970, p. 336.
[2]           Ga.S.Ct. R. 91 - 94 (Mar.12, 2105), available at:
http://www.gasupreme.us/rules/amended_rules/ (site visited Aug. 12, 2105)
[3]           O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(d).
[4]           Ga.S.Ct. R. 92.
[5]           Ibid.
Ga. S.Ct. R. 91 through 96. While the Supreme Court Rules are substantially similar to O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22, there are subtle differences. The most notable is that the statute allows third-year law students to practice for up to 18 months while the court rule limits students to 12 months.  Compare O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(f) to Ga. S.Ct. R. 95.  The practical effect of this difference is negligible in most cases because, unless the student is taking a reduced class load, he or she will graduate before the 12 months expire.
[6]           O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22(d).
[7]           Ga. S.Ct. R. 93(2).
[8]           Ga. S.Ct R. 94
[9]           Ga. S.Ct. R. 94(1), (2),and (3).  The Dean may delegate this authority.  Ga. S.Ct. R. 94, para 6.
[10]         Ga. S.Ct. R. 94, para. 3.
[11]         Ga. S.Ct. R. 95, para 2. However, the statute only allows third-year law students to practice for up to 18 months. O.C.G.A. § 15-18(f).
[12]          Ga. S.Ct. R. 95, para 5 (“The Director of the Office of Bar Admissions may terminate registration at any time without prior notice or hearing and without any showing of cause.”)  Termination is mandatory if the law student is put on academic probation, is no longer enrolled at the law school, or the dean withdraws the certification.
[13]         The Georgia Supreme Court requires that the application be submitted to a judge of the court or the presiding officer in which the law student will appear.  Ga. S.Ct. R. 92, para. 2.  When the law student will be representing the State in criminal cases, O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22(e) & (f) specifies that the motion be presented to a judge of the superior court.  Given the conflict, between the rule and the statute, and the “client consent” requirement in Rule  95, the better practice would be to file the original petition in superior court and obtain supplemental order in other courts.
[14]           O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22(e).
[15]          O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22(f).
[16]          Ga. S.Ct. R. 92
[17]          O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22(c)(1).
[18]          O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22(d).
[19]          Ibid.; Ga. S.Ct. R 95.
[20]          Ibid.
[21]          O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(d).
[22]          Ga. S.Ct. R. 4(1).  The rules of the Georgia Court of Appeals do not allow law students or law school graduates to co-sign briefs or motions.
[23]          Ga. S.Ct. R. 4(1); Ga. Rules of Professional Conduct, R. 5.3; Ga. Formal Advisory Op. 00-2; Ga. St. Bar Disciplinary Bd. Advisory Op. 19.
[24]          O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(d); Ga. S.Ct. R. 95; Ga. Rules of Professional Conduct, R. 5.3.
[25]          O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(d); Ga. S.Ct. R. 92.
[26]          Ibid.
[27]          O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(f); Ga. S.Ct. R. 94, para 2.
[28]          O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(f); Ga. S.Ct. R. 95.
[29]          O.C.G.A. ' 15-18-22(d).