Saturday, May 24, 2008

United States District Court for the District of Columbia


My first week as an intern at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia - Alicia Kelman


Life lesson #1: Learn to love the Bluebook. Contrary to what you may
think, the Bluebook is not the most poorly organized good for nothing
unnecessarily complicated piece of nonsense ever put on paper. Trust
me, once you sit down to read a petitioner's motion and none of the
citations make even a little bit of sense, and you are forced to delve
deep into the depths of Westlaw in order to figure out what the motion
is referring to, you will realize the benefits of a uniform system of
citation.


Life lesson #2: Bring the law clerks Starbucks. Coffee breaks are the
perfect time to chat with the law clerks about the cases that they're
working on. Over a deliciously refreshing iced latte, I learned all
about the difficulties in proving a Title VII discrimination claim,
the intricacies and loopholes of bankruptcy law, and the meaning of
the Latin phrase pro hac vice.


Life lesson #3: LRW was not pointless torture. Twice this week the law
clerk asked me to venture into the court library and find the
publication date of a print source. If not for all of those lovely LRW
research assignments, (ie, the ones where I wandered aimlessly around
the library muttering to myself "when will I ever need to do any
research other than on Westlaw?"), I would have been in serious
trouble.


Life lesson #4: Being a judge is harder than you think. Four interns
are sitting in what is lovingly referred to as "the pit," reading
motions for summary judgment on an immigration case. After reading the
first motion, each one of us proclaims "yes, definitely, this guy
wins, for sure, no doubt about it, he should totally get to stay in
America." Fast forward half an hour… same four interns, after reading
the other side's motion: "oh, wow, wait a second, this guy's arguments
are pretty good too, huh, maybe the judge should send the guy back to
England." True story.


Life lesson #5: I want to be Jack McCoy. "Law & Order" might not be
entirely accurate, but the reality is just as awesome. On the first
day of my internship, the law clerk printed out a schedule of
everything going on in the court for the week, and highlighted stuff
that he thought us interns would find particularly fascinating. Having
the opportunity to observe everything from arraignments to full blown
jury trials and sentencing hearings is absolutely incredible.

Life lesson #6: EJF is my savior. Five days into the summer, and
already I have received quite an education. Without the EJF funding, I
would have been unable to: 1) Buy a shiny new Bluebook so I could
decode a petitioner's motion, 2) Buy the law clerks lattes in exchange
for their wisdom, 3) Buy gifts to bribe the librarians for help with
my research, 4) Buy new reading glasses so I can tackle any assignment
the judge gives me, and 5) Buy "Law & Order" DVDs so I could compare
my experiences to that of my idol. Kidding aside, without the EJF
funding, my summer would be entirely different – not sure where I
would have chosen to intern, and not sure what life lessons I would
have learned…

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Equal Justice Foundation

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