About USC Gould
USC Gould is a top-ranked law school with a 120-year history and reputation for academic excellence. We are located on the beautiful 228-acre USC University Park Campus, just south of downtown Los Angeles.
Learn about our interdisciplinary curriculum, experiential learning opportunities and specialized areas.
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USC Gould helps prepare you for a stellar legal career. You can pursue a JD degree, one of our numerous graduate and international offerings, or an online degree or certificate.
Participate in an unparalleled learning experience with diversity of people and thought. Get involved in the law school community and participate in activities that enhance your studies.
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We work closely with students, graduates and employers to support successful career goals and outcomes. Our overall placement rate is consistently strong, with 94 percent of our JD class employed within 10 months after graduation.
Our faculty is distinguished for its scholarship, as well as for its commitment to teaching. Our 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio creates an intimate and collegial learning environment.
- Alumni and Giving
Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP)
USC Gould School of Law
- + AREAS OF CONCENTRATION
- ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
- BUSINESS LAW
- MEDIA, ENTERTAINMENT AND TECHNOLOGY LAW
- PUBLIC INTEREST LAW
- + EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
- UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS
- CORPORATE AND CUSTOM EDUCATION
- + NON-DEGREE PROGRAMS
- ACADEMIC CALENDAR
- COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
- BAR ADMISSIONS
Help provide a second chance for deserving clients sentenced to life terms in California. Through the Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP) clinical program, you will gain invaluable experience representing clients at parole hearings, conducting resentencing hearings, seeking executive clemency and litigating petitions for writs of habeas corpus in state and federal courts.
Since its inception in 1981 as the law school's first clinical program, 732 law students have assisted over 4,300 clients. PCJP students have won the release of 188 persons sentenced to life terms in California through the parole process and on habeas corpus. PCJP also engages in legislative advocacy and has co-sponsored or written nearly every juvenile justice bill passed in California since 2012. Learn more about PCJP at pcjp.usc.edu and follow the Project on Facebook and Instagram.
Why Choose PCJP?
While providing deserving clients with zealous representation, you will develop your potential as a skilled and ethical legal advocate.
In 2008, the Project prevailed in a defining case for the California parole system on behalf of longtime client Sandra Davis-Lawrence. The Project argued - and the California Supreme Court agreed - that a person sentenced to a life-term is entitled to meaningful judicial review of parole decisions to safeguard the constitutional liberty interest in parole.
The Project also has successfully advocated for legislative reform of the parole system and changes to California sentencing laws, benefiting many thousands of people incarcerated in California prisons.
Types of Cases
You will have the opportunity to work on cases that involve representation of clients in administrative and court hearings, presentation of testimony and argument, appellate advocacy and litigation of significant constitutional issues .
In the spring, first-year JD students apply for full-time summer positions. Additional students enroll on a first-come first-served basis. Select students are invited to return to participate in Advanced PCJP during their third year. Because of the hands-on nature of the Project's work, enrollment is limited to 16 new JD students per year.
The Project is offered as a course within the JD curriculum for academic credit. Students enroll in the clinical course for two semesters. In addition to developing vital skills in criminal and constitutional law, you will examine and discuss broader issues of criminal justice in the context of your clients' cases.
Crucial advocacy skills developed through firsthand experience representing clients include:
- client counseling
- effective fact-gathering, interviewing and presentation of evidence
- proficient and persuasive legal writing and oral advocacy
- strategic planning and proactive problem-solving
- professionalism, judgment and ethical practice
Michael Brennan co-directs the Post-Conviction Justice Project and is an authority on the three-strikes law and the death penalty. He has served as directing attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance and as a deputy federal public defender. He is a former partner with Balaban, Stern and Brennan and previously taught at Emory University. He chaired the Federal Indigent Defense Panel Selection Committee for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, served on the Los Angeles County Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Committee, consulted for the National Legal Services Training Program and was a member of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Prof. Brennan received his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
Heidi Rummel co-directs the Post-Conviction Justice Project. A former federal prosecutor, she served in the United States Attorney's Offices in both Washington D.C. and Los Angeles where she focused on violent crime and criminal civil rights cases, and also served as a deputy chief in the Training Section. Prof. Rummel clerked for the Honorable Thomas Penfield Jackson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia. She holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a J.D. from the University of Chicago.
Student & Alumni Testimonials
We're treated like attorneys and work with clients just as an attorney would do in the real world. It's an incredible responsibility but convinced me that I made the right decision to go to law school."
Alexander Hurd, JD '16
"I know I will carry the lessons I learned in the Project throughout my career. I learned how to interview clients, develop persuasive legal arguments and advocate for clients in written briefs and oral argument. It's an incredible feeling to represent a client who is released but, at the same time, there are so many more people to be helped."
Julia Deixler, JD '14, Associate, Litigation Department, O'Melveny
"I am so grateful to USC Gould's Post-Conviction Justice Project. The students never gave up on me. I know I would have never been released without their help."
Glenda Virgil, convicted of killing her abuser more than 25 years ago
"I am forever grateful to the students at the Post-Conviction Justice Project. The Lord brought me these angels, these amazing students, to help me."
Mary Virginia Jones, freed from a life sentence after 32 years
Post-Conviction Justice Project in the News
Inspiring passion for justice
July 23, 2020
USC Post-Conviction Justice Project celebrates 40 years of leading the way in education and reforms ...more
Three clients freed from California prisons
July 9, 2020
USC Gould's Post-Conviction Justice Project helps secure second chances for three clients serving life sentences ...more
"Life and Innocence" panel discussion explores PCJP role in criminal justice advocacy
February 19, 2020
Personal stories illustrate damage that can be caused by criminal justice system ...more
For maximum security inmates, USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project sparks hope
February 26, 2019
Gould students join team to counsel life-term youth ...more
Justice and redemption
October 22, 2018
PCJP clients share stories of life sentences ...more
Striving for juvenile justice
August 8, 2018
PCJP’s first juvenile LWOP resentencing client released from prison. ...more
Rapper Common and PCJP lobby for criminal justice reform
January 21, 2018
PCJP currently represents dozens of youth offenders, serving adult life sentences ...more
PCJP Juvenile Justice Bills Become Law
October 12, 2017
New bills signed by Gov. Brown mean second chances for youth in California ...more
A Life Beyond Prison
May 31, 2017
Client of Post-Conviction Justice Project reflects on his 41-year fight for release ...more
Three Major Victories for Gould Students
May 1, 2017
USC Gould’s Post-Conviction Justice Project is celebrating three major victories ...more
PCJP Director and Student Win CLAY Award
May 10, 2016
Heidi Rummel and Scott Mills were recognized for their work with juvenile resentencing ...more
PCJP and IHRC Mark Milestones
March 25, 2016
USC Gould's oldest and newest clinics celebrate milestones ...more
'Real Clients, High Stakes'
March 18, 2016
Prof. Heidi Rummel discusses the ‘huge successes’ of PCJP student-lawyers over 35 years ...more
Doing Justice for Students and Clients
February 24, 2016
Gould’s Post-Conviction Justice Project has impacted countless lives, and that’s what has kept co-director Michael Brennan going for 30 years ...more
PCJP Students Triumph
September 20, 2015
Students -- and a recent graduate -- successfully argue on behalf of longtime clients ...more
USC Gould Students Make Legal Mark
September 2, 2015
Gov. Brown signs bill written by Gould students ...more
PCJP Victory: Juvenile Offender Serving Life Released from Prison
March 24, 2015
Free After 24 Years ...more
Video: Changing Laws, Changing Lives
September 4, 2015
Post-Conviction Justice Program (PCJP) clients, as well as USC Gould students and faculty share the powerful impact of the clinic's work on juveniles and victims of abuse. The clinic represents California federal and state inmates in post-conviction issues ranging from parole board hearings to petitions for ...more
Dan Klerman awarded Fulbright Senior Scholar grant to conduct research in Israel
June 7, 2023
At Hebrew University in Jerusalem, USC Gould professor will compare immigration policies
Trailblazer Elyn Saks sees ‘gender-inspired mental health activism happening all the time now’
June 6, 2023
USC Gould professor is founder, faculty director of Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics
USC Gould Law Library showcases ‘rejuvenating power of music’
June 2, 2023
Performances feature LA Philharmonic concertmaster, saxophone quartet