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David Kwok

David Kwok,
Director, Criminal Justice Institute


The Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) brings together nationally-recognized scholars, top criminal law practitioners, judges and students through a variety of programs designed to enhance the study and practice of criminal law. The Institute includes such established programs as the Texas Innocence Network, the Criminal Practice Clinic, and the Criminal Trial Advocacy training program. The Institute also offers opportunities for educational and practice programs, a dual degree in law and criminology, and conferences and symposia. All of the activities of the Institute aim to enhance the practice of criminal law at the local, national, and international levels.

Criminal Justice Training Center

Criminal Justice Department

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice and Criminology B.S.


Free and Low-Cost Legal Services—click here.

For further information about the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center, browse here or contact:

Criminal Justice Institute
University of Houston Law Center
4170 Martin Luther King Blvd
Houston, TX 77204-6060

The Texas Innocence Network (TIN)

David Dow

Prof. David Dow, Director, Texas Innocence Network

Created in 2000, the Texas Innocence Network, based at the University of Houston Law Center, is Texas’ oldest innocence network.

Capital Division
The Capital Division represents death-sentenced inmates in their state and federal habeas appeals.  TIN attorneys rely largely on student interns to conduct the exhaustive investigations necessary to develop the claims raised in these proceedings.  The Capital Division also responds to requests from inmates who have been denied relief in their habeas proceedings and for whom an execution date is imminent.  In these “crisis cases,” TIN attorneys and interns work tirelessly to identify and develop potential claims in an attempt to stop the execution.  The Capital Division also provides research and investigative support for other attorneys representing Texas death row inmates.

Non-Capital Division
The Non-Capital Division works to exonerate inmates who did not commit the crimes for which they were wrongfully-convicted.  In order to fulfill its mission, the Non-Capital Division evaluates, investigates, and litigates claims of actual innocence.  Letters from inmates and their agents are initially reviewed to ascertain whether an actual innocence claim that falls within project parameters has been presented.  If so, the Non-Capital Division requests additional information to provide a better understanding of the inmate’s case and claim.  Upon receipt of this information, the Non-Capital Division reviews the case file to determine whether there is any evidence that indicate that the inmate was wrongfully convicted, then attempts to locate the exonerating evidence.  Once evidence of actual innocence has been established, the Non-Capital Division provides post-conviction legal assistance to wrongfully-convicted inmates by filing petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, clemency applications, or both.
Student interns from the University of Houston Law Center (UHLC) are integral to this process. The Non-Capital Division was founded by UHLC Distinguished University Professor David R. Dow in 2000.  It started as a student volunteer organization and quickly evolved into a class offered year-round. Consequently, UHLC students constantly work on the literally hundreds of investigations that are open and ongoing at any given time.  UHLC students provide invaluable assistance and support, in order to free innocent men and women who are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.

Center for Children, Law & Policy

Ellen Marrus

Prof. Ellen Marrus,
Director, Center for Children, Law & Policy

Center for Children, Law & Policy

The mission of the Center for Children, Law & Policy is to engage in legal and interdisciplinary scholarship, advocacy and teaching to advance the interests of children through public policy.

The Center addresses broad issues relating to children, including issues regarding juvenile justice.

Blakely Advocacy Institute

Prof. Jim Lawrence,
Director, Blakely Advocacy Institute

Advocacy Skills

The Blakely Advocacy Institute offers a trial advocacy course in which students learn how to litigate both a civil case and a criminal case.  Students play the role of counsel at each stage of the proceedings, including opening statements, direct examinations, cross-examinations, and closing arguments. The course is taught by highly skilled and experienced trial lawyers and judges from the Houston area. The Program also participates each year in several national criminal trial advocacy and moot court competitions which have brought both national championships and recognition to the Law Center.

Criminal Defense Clinic and Externship Opportunities

Prof. Erik Locascio, Criminal Defense Clinic Director

Clinical Programs

Bill Powers Director, Internship & Externship Programs

Students in the Criminal Defense Clinic will be assigned misdemeanor cases and be responsible for handling all legal aspects of the case from arraignment to fact investigation to trial. Students will learn the law in a real-life context and develop profession and problem-solving skills. Students will be exposed to a wide range of cases such as assaults, thefts, driving while intoxicated and drug possession. Students will have the opportunity to investigate crime scenes and interview witnesses. 

The Judicial Internship/Externship Program offers students the opportunities to earn academic credit and gain invaluable experience as interns for judges in the criminal courts or through externships with law firms.  For students interested in pursuing criminal law, externships are available with the Harris County Public Defender’s Office.

University of Houston Law Center

4170 Martin Luther King Blvd
Houston, TX 77204-6060

713-743-2100 General
713-743-2094 Legal Clinics