Professor Nicole Smith Futrell’s forthcoming article, The Practice and Pedagogy of Carceral Abolition in a Criminal Defense Clinic, forthcoming in the NYU Review of Law & Social Change, Feb 2021, argues that although carceral abolition and the institutional role that a public defender plays are an imperfect fit, students in criminal defense clinics should be taught how to effectively advocate for their clients with abolitionist values in mind.
Nicole Smith Futrell is a Professor of Law, Co-Director of the Defenders Clinic, Director of the Center for Diversity in the Legal Profession, and Faculty Director of the W. Haywood Burns Chair of Human and Civil Rights Program. Her career has been dedicated to advocating for the rights of those accused of criminal offenses. In her clinical practice, she and her students represent clients in a variety of criminal defense-related contexts, including state court misdemeanor cases, parole and clemency petitions, wrongful conviction matters, and civil claims related to criminal convictions. Professor Smith Futrell’s teaching and scholarship focus on criminal procedure, legal ethics, post-conviction relief, reentry, and social justice lawyering. Her work explores the relationship between racial justice advocacy and criminal legal reform and practice.
Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Smith Futrell was a public defender in the Criminal Defense Practice of the Bronx Defenders, where she litigated misdemeanor and felony cases and conducted criminal law training for new attorneys and local community groups. She has also worked as an advisor in the Center for Public Interest Law at Columbia University Law School. Before attending law school, she studied South Africa’s post-apartheid criminal system as an Institute for International Public Policy Fellow.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Bronx Defenders and chairs the Law School Engagement Committee of the Black Public Defenders Association. Professor Smith Futrell received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University.