PCJP provides deserving clients with zealous representation and develops law students’ potential to be skilled and ethical advocates.

Since 1981, the Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP) has trained hundreds of law students to stand for justice and contribute to legislation that is transforming our legal landscape.

Under the direction of PCJP Director Heidi Rummel and Co-Founder Michael Brennan at the USC Gould School of Law, the Project has advocated for thousands of clients at parole hearings, on habeas corpus in state and federal courts, at resentencing hearings, and in prison workshops.

The Project hires six supervising students each summer and enrolls ten additional students in the fall for the academic year. In addition to developing critical lawyering proficiencies through hands-on experience, students examine and discuss broader criminal justice issues.

Meet Our Directors

Heidi L. Rummel

Heidi Rummel co-directs the Post-Conviction Justice Project. Under her supervision, second and third-year law students represent people serving life terms in California prisons, many of whom were sentenced for crimes they committed as teenagers. 

Michael Parente

Michael Parente co-directs the Post-Conviction Justice Project. Prior to joining USC Gould, Parente served as a deputy federal public defender in Los Angeles for 10 years, primarily representing indigent individuals on California’s death row in post-conviction proceedings at all levels of state and federal court.

Emeritus Leadership

Michael J. Brennan

Michael Brennan is an authority on the three-strikes law and the death penalty, as well as criminal defense and appeals. A specialist in clinical legal education, Brennan co-directed the Post-Conviction Justice Project and taught Trial Advocacy.

Our Story

Our story is centered around training law students to be “justice warriors” – inspired to challenge laws that are outdated and verdicts and sentences that were mishandled or simply unjust.

It is also a story of Edel, of Celia and a woman they call “Mother Mary.” It’s a story of youth serving adult life sentences. And women defending themselves from their abusers only to be sent to prison for the rest of their lives. It’s a tale of thousands more people in California prisons seeking the hope that PCJP can bring.