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Appealing Criminal Convictions

For more than a decade, the firm has partnered with the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (OPD) to represent indigent defendants appealing their criminal convictions. We continue this work through the OPD Appellate Section Pro Bono Partnership Program, which formally launched in 2018. As a participating firm and counsel of record in the appeals we take on from the OPD, Lowenstein is responsible for legal research and strategy, preparation of the appellate briefs and record, and oral argument. The matters often present significant and complex evidentiary and constitutional issues, and the stakes are high as our clients are typically serving long prison terms.

Through this program, young lawyers have an opportunity to develop their written and oral advocacy skills while ensuring that indigent defendants can appeal what may be unjust convictions.

Since the inception of its partnership with the OPD, the firm has devoted approximately 7,500 hours to this work.

As a first-year associate working on an OPD appeal, I received significant autonomy within my first few months at the firm on an appeal that raised novel issues about whether my client’s trial violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. At the start of the case, I reviewed the appellate record, consulted with senior attorneys regarding potential appealable issues, and researched the law surrounding those issues. With that strong understanding of our case, I was given the opportunity to prepare the first drafts of the opening and reply briefs and to argue the appeal. It was an honor and a privilege to have a prominent role in such an important case so early in my career.

Pat Thomas, Lowenstein associate