Thursday, July 31, 2008

United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Virginia

Pat McDermott shares his summer experiences:

This summer I have had the pleasure of interning in the chambers of
the Honorable Michael F. Urbanski, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Virginia. It has been invaluable experience and I am indebted to Judge Urbanski and his Law Clerk, Yousri Omar, for all I have learned. As a magistrate judge, Judge Urbanski has many pretrial motions from a variety of civil cases (including the always dreadful denial of social security benefits appeals) referred to him and conducts almost of all of the pretrial hearings for criminal cases. Because magistrate judges are only allotted funds for one law clerk, my summer has been loaded with significant work.



In the first two weeks of my internship I drafted a memo to the judge on an insurance claim dispute, a memorandum opinion on a motion to quash a subpoena in an employment discrimination case, and an order on another motion to quash in an ERISA denial of benefits case. In between writing and researching these civil matters, I was able watch the judge in action at detention hearings in criminal prosecutions. These detention hearings occasionally included testimony from witnesses from both the prosecution and defense, as well as closing arguments from both sides. The judge would then determine whether the defendant should be detained, specifically, he must determine whether the defendant is a risk of flight or poses a danger to the community. In rare cases, the judge called a recess to see what the law clerk and I thought about the arguments. Although always appreciative of our thoughts, any disagreements were usually resolved with a friendly reminder from the judge that only one of our opinions mattered.

I also have been able to observe the mediations which the judge regularly conducts. During a mediation, both parties come to the courthouse where each side makes opening arguments and then divides into separate rooms. The judge then bounces back and forth between the rooms for the rest of the day, negotiating a settlement deal. As the skills and style necessary to securing a beneficial settlement for a client are much different in the mediation setting as opposed to winning a verdict in a courtroom setting, seeing these mediations first hand has been a highly interesting and educational experience.

I truly believe that one could not spend their summer in a more beneficial position than I have this summer as a judicial intern with Judge Urbanski. I have worked on a wide assortment of issues,including the marital communications privilege, a prisoner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a criminal contempt action, and a motion for attorney's fees. The work I did on practical, real-world applications of the law greatly improved my research, writing, and
communication skills. I benefited from the assistance and editing of the three different law clerks. I have seen many different styles of argument from lawyers and how effective each is in the eyes of a federal judge.

The generous grant I received from the Equal Justice Foundation continues to be an integral part of my unpaid internship this summer and I am extremely appreciative of this assistance.

Earthjustice International

Rania Rampersad writes from California:

After interning in a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya last summer (an internship that was also funded by EJF), I realized how difficult it is to help refugees once they have experiences the violence and trauma of war and displacement. I decided I wanted to do something to prevent people from becoming refugees in the first place. Many experts believe that climate change could cause as many as 200 million refugees by the year 2050, so I decided that focusing on prevention of climate change would be a great way to make a long term difference for a lot of people.

Working at Earthjustice International in Oakland, CA has turned out to be a fantastic summer experience! This organization is well known for their groundbreaking work on human rights and climate change. For example, they helped bring a petition on behalf of the Inuit people to an international commission regarding human rights violations caused by climate change. It was wonderful to spend the summer working on such cutting-edge legal issues. It was also a great learning experience to be able to work on a large variety of writing tasks, including a brief for litigation with the EPA, a policy paper for a United Nations Committee, and a memo evaluating potential international environmental claims.

The best part was being able to utilize the insights I acquired last summer working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Because of this past experience, I was able to share my knowledge of the international refugee assistance process to inform our policy report’s discussion of climate change refugees here at Earthjustice International. My supervisors’ willingness to solicit my opinions and include me in discussions was a welcome surprise and reminded me why I love working for non-profit organizations.

The Equal Justice Foundation has given me two invaluable experiences that will help me to start my career in public service with direction, commitment, and the knowledge that it is possible to make a difference, even before you graduate!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

Daphne Lyman writes from New York:

Working at the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York in the Criminal Division is the best job ever. Just ask anybody who works here. Despite the hard work and government salary, the ability to “do the right thing” on a daily basis makes it all worth while. And the same goes for the interns.

Each of the 35 interns has been assigned to one or two attorneys, and while of course they are all involved in different cases at different stages of prosecution, I think everyone has had the opportunity to significantly contribute to a case. It is amazing to realize the fruits of your labor. Even the most minute research project can turn into a larger memo or brief that will have an impact on a person’s life, a person who we often get to see and even interact with. A few times, research I did on last minute issues for a suppression hearing was used as part of the government’s brief and/or oral argument. And I was able to attend those hearings and see the defendant and the process first hand.

My biggest project this summer has been on a sentencing, researching issues raised by the defendant’s objections to a Pre-Sentencing Report and then drafting the Government’s response. Other interns have worked on everything from drafting subpoenas and attending proffer sessions with cooperating witnesses, to trial preparation and trial itself, and finally through sentencing. I even helped one of my attorneys prepare for her first oral argument on an appeal brought by the defendant before the Second Circuit.

When we are not busy hunkered down in the library or accompanying our attorneys on their quest for justice, we attend trials at the federal courthouse down the street. There is always something exciting going on- an opening statement in a drug trafficking trial, a summation in a murder trial, or the cross-examination of the defendant in an organized crime trial, for example. This job has been an amazing experience in criminal law, litigation, and the actual pursuit of justice, as cheesy as it sounds, and I highly recommend it to anyone.

National Public Radio

Mike Sacks writes from DC:

My summer's adventure began with a cover letter that began, "My name is Mike Sacks and, sadly, I do not own a Nina Totin'Bag." Well, nearly eight months after I wrote that line, I still do not own the bag, but I did receive the next best thing: The Nina Totinternship.

From mid-May until late July, I was neck-deep in legal journalism and loved every moment of it. For the first month of my internship, my typical days started with going to the Supreme Court to watch the Justices hand down their opinions. We were in the final weeks of the term, but not until the very end did the Court announce their blockbusters. There, sitting in the alcove with other members of the Supreme Court press, I witnessed history being made as the justices issued their sweeping opinions and stinging dissents in the landmark cases of Heller v. District of Columbia and Boumediene v. Bush.

After Chief Justice Roberts banged his gavel for the final time this term, more work remained. Nina and I jumped right into the US District Court for the District of Columbia to cover the first post-Boumediene habeas hearings. There, the judges and lawyers, upon Justice Kennedy's decree, sought to carve procedural paths through Guantanamo's uncharted legal territory.

Although watching history being made on a near-daily basis was exciting, so too was the frenzy that followed: Nina and I would rush back to NPR, where I would help her digest the Court's 100-plus page decisions for a five-minute piece to be aired four hours after reading the opinions' first words. All the while, she and I would be conducting interviews with politicians, professors, lawyers, and experts as NPR's editors and producers polished the piece to perfection.

In the end, no matter what the story, one thing remained constant: Nina's final product always amounted to a true public service.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Alaska Legal Services

Daniel Carson is working as a summer associate for Alaska Legal Services in Anchorage.

ALS is a non profit organization that provides legal aid to those who can't afford legal help. I have been pleasantly surprised with the type of work I have been exposed to and the people whom I have been working with. I highly recommend anyone in the future to work here.
I have had a lot of exposure to different types & sizes of cases from minor landlord-tenant rights to a statewide class action suit against the state of Alaska which is on appeal with the Alaska Supreme Court. I have been busy with research and doing other various litigation work such as drafting discovery and calling witnesses. The funnest part of that work has been doing detective sleuthing; for instance by going out to a cabin to look around and by calling around and asking questions to the water testing lab and neighbors and so on.

Living in Alaska is certainly like nothing else in the rest of the U.S. You feel very separated and you feel like you are on the edge of the world. It doesn't get dark in the summer and it's hard at first to fall asleep. I stopped riding my bike to work after almost being stomped by a moose with her calves and after reading in the paper of a grizzly bear mauling of a bicyclist on the edge of town, nearby from
where I am staying for the summer. On the weekends I am able to "escape" the town and head south to the Kenai Peninsula for some fishing or hiking with co-workers; the scenery & wildlife is amazing. I feel extremely grateful to the Equal Justice Foundation and would like to thank the Equal Justice Foundation for the opportunity to be able to accept this position in Alaska.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees- Panama

Shani Adess writes from Panama:

This summer I worked with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees and the Panamanian Red Cross in Panama City, Panama. Panama’s location, directly north of Colombia, has made it a prime asylum state for refugees fleeing Colombia’s decade’s long conflict. Unfortunately, adding to the numerous problems that asylum seekers and refugees regularly face, such as trauma, poverty, physical and mental health issues, and the loss of contact with family and friends, Colombian asylum seekers and refugees in Panama also face an extremely restrictive national refugee policy, and generalized anti-Colombian sentiment among the Panamanian population.



As a result, asylum seeker and refugee families often face significant obstacles when attempting to obtain rights under Panamanian law, such as residency, work permits, etc. Working with the Panamanian Red Cross, a partner of UNHCR, I developed for future implementation a livelihood program that would help provide employment opportunities or vocational training for refugees. I also participated in training sessions, prepared specifically for the national police, in order to advocate for refugee rights and promote awareness of the situation asylum seekers and refugees face in Panama today.
Working with both UNHCR and the Panamanian Red Cross gave me an invaluable opportunity to meet directly with both urban refugees and refugees in the DariĆ©n, the jungle located between Panama and Colombia- where the road literally ends. This is a unique experience that I was so glad to be able to take advantage of. Usually, UNHCR follows a policy of encampment in rural areas, often due to host governments’ restrictions; Panama is one of the few countries where urban refugees make up a majority of the refugee population. Still, I was able to experience was a ‘refugee camp’ would be like, visiting refugees living side by side with indigenous groups in an area well beyond the beaten path.
Without the Equal Justice Foundation fellowship, and your kind contributions, I would never have been able to accept this summer internship. As a rising third year law student, I was under significant pressure to follow the norm and accept a firm job. After years of doing public service oriented internships, my bank account would never have afforded me the opportunity to go abroad and work for free. It has been a long time goal of mine to work for both UNHCR and the Red Cross- and now I was able to do both, and hopefully I will continue doing so in the future!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Survey Results

The results are in and can be viewed in full here. A summary and analysis of the results appears below:

From July 14 to July 17, 2008, the Georgetown University Law Center Equal Justice Foundation (“EJF”) surveyed recipients of Equal Justice Foundation summer funding to receive their feedback on the extent to which their EJF stipend covered their summer living expenses. We had a 64% response rate for our survey. Of the 246 students who received an EJF stipend for the summer of 2008, 158 responded to the survey, which was distributed via email and completed by respondents via a web service called “Survey Monkey.” Survey results were password protected. This memo summarizes the survey’s findings, as analyzed by the EJF board.

The EJF stipend does not adequately cover summer living expenses for a majority of EJF recipients.

A large majority, 81% of respondents said their EJF stipend did not fully cover their living expenses for the summer.

A majority, 60.2% of respondents said they paid $750 or more each month in rent, with 38.7% stating they paid more than $1000 each month. Three months rent at a minimal rate of $750 equals $2250, consuming the vast majority of a 1L stipend after income tax and Social Security withholding. A monthly rent of $1000 completely exhausts a 1L stipend, with no money leftover for groceries or transportation.

Additionally, rising fuel prices have increased that cost of commuting and flying. This has especially impacted those traveling internationally or those living in cities without sufficient public transportation. Nearly half (41.1%) of respondents report relocating away from Washington, DC or their home towns for their summer internships.

The EJF Board is discouraged that recipients are not able to make ends meet over the course of a summer and are determined to increase funding levels to allow students to participate in public interest work.

Large numbers of EJF recipients are going into additional debt, beyond academic year student loans, in order to make ends meet.

The majority of respondents borrowed money from family (48.1%) and/or paid for additional expenses with credit cards (37.3%).

Students also report working second jobs at night and on weekends (26.6%), missing payments on bills (7.0%), relying on spouses or significant others for financial support (5.0%) and depleting personal savings (4.4%) in order to make it through the summer.

The EJF Board is especially concerned with the need for EJF recipients to further incur debt during their summer working in public interest. The decision to work in public interest during the 2L summer or after 3L year is a difficult decision financially. The need to repay family loans or pay off the interest and balance on a credit card from a summer of public interest work should not be a further financial impediment to a career in public interest.

In order to make ends meet, recipients need more financial assistance from Georgetown and EJF, but not much more.

When asked how much support they would need in order to live “reasonably
comfortably” a vast majority of respondents (70.3%) said an increased EJF stipend of $4000 - $6000 would be adequate.

No respondents suggested that a stipend of more than $9,000 would be necessary, and only 10.8% of respondents suggested amounts of $7000 or more.

By increasing our current EJF stipends by only $1000-$2000, we can succeed in making a public interest summer more feasible for students at Georgetown. The EJF Board is committed to this goal and looks forward to working with the Law Center administration.

View the results in full

Monday, July 21, 2008

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Becca Richardson is spending her summer working for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Maybe I was just over-inundated during training, but it’s hard for me to explain my place in the EEOC without explaining a bit about the structure of the EEO process. As a caveat, I work in the Office of Federal Operations, which means I deal only with discrimination alleged against the federal government. The EEOC also deals with discrimination claims made against private entities, but I’m assuming that process works differently.

There are several statutes that prohibit employment discrimination: Title VII, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, color, religion or pregnancy; the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex; the Americans with Disabilities Act (or the Rehab Act when charging the Federal Government with discrimination) which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which, you guessed it, prohibits discrimination on the basis of age (as long as the discriminated person is 40 or over). If a person thinks she has been discriminated against, she may contact an EEO Counselor. The Counselor takes a report and may suggest some form of ADR, and then advises the individual of her right to file an official complaint. If she files a complaint, the complaint is investigated. If either the agency or the individual requests a hearing, the case may go before an EEOC Administrative Judge. The judge makes a finding and issues a decision. The agency then issues a final decision either implementing or appealing the judge’s decision. The individual who alleged discrimination can then appeal the agency’s final decision.

As a member of the Office of Federal Operation’s Appellate Review Program, I handle appeals from both agencies and individuals. Our office gets roughly a bajillion appeals every year*, and so our superiors put us to work right away on writing appeals. I was a little overwhelmed by my responsibility to begin with. However, we each work very closely with an experienced mentor attorney, and they are always there to step in when we confuse the applicable standard of review, or misapply a statute, or make other rookie mistakes. They are also excellent sounding boards, and my mentor attorney has been very helpful in helping me through every step of a more difficult decision I was assigned.

Overall, I have really enjoyed my summer with the EEOC. Everyone is very helpful and kind. The attorneys here are infinite sources of knowledge, and are very friendly - the entire office took my fellow interns and me out to a happy hour our first week here. I’ve had the opportunity to complete substantive work and have received a lot of feedback, which is (hopefully) enabling me to become a better writer and lawyer in general.


* I am clearly making this number up but just be informed that the number of appeals we receive is overwhelming. If that doesn’t satisfy you, I’m sure the EEOC website has some sort of information for you.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

National Women's Law Center

EJF Vice-President Anya Prince discusses her summer at the National Women's Law Center:

Currently, women make 77 cents to every man's dollar. Public interest law students make, on average, 0 cents to every law firm summer associate dollar. Thanks to the stipend provided by Georgetown's Equal Justice Foundation, this summer I am able to work towards pay equality for women while actually being paid for my summer, public interest work.



This summer I am working at the National Women's Law Center in the Employment and Education team. This opportunity has provided my with many chances to work for women's equality both in the workplace and in schools. For example, this week I was able to attend an exciting rally to raise awareness of the need to pass equal pay legislation in the Senate. At the rally I was fortunate to hear great women leaders of our time, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Lily Ledbetter, speak about women's pay equity and their fight to get equal pay legislation through Congress.

Throughout the summer I have also been able to work on a variety of projects ranging from doing research on an appeal of a Title IX, athletic discrimination case to working towards ensuring that pregnant students are not discriminated against in their high school and college educations to writing posts for the NWLC Women'stake blog. I have really enjoyed working in the Washington realm of the mixture between law and policy. I have learned a great deal about how legal advocacy can be paired with policy work to affect meaningful change. Additionally, I have been able to participate in a few coalition meetings which have taught me the importance of working together with many public interest, civil rights organizations to champion broad, effective change.

My internship at NWLC has given me the opportunity to research and write about federal Title VII and Title IX cases, as well as dabble a bit in some of the state laws protecting women's rights. I have also been able to participate in the legislative process and help to research findings for proposed bills and work with Senator's offices to draft language for the bills. This breadth of knowledge I am gaining is invaluable. After this summer's work I look forward to a lifelong commitment of working in civil rights and employment rights.

I am thankful everyday that I go to work that I am able to participate in such an amazing organization with empowered and passionate women and men. As a rising 3L, it was intimidating to accept a public interest job instead of a firm job. However, the Equal Justice Foundation and its donors made this decision easier and I am so glad that I am able to have such a fulfilling summer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Google Reader

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

South African Human Rights Commission

Christina Calce shares her experiences in South Africa:

Not that long ago, my supervisor asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I replied, only half jokingly, "save the world." I realize that that is a rather ambitious plan, but I feel like I am at least doing a bit to help the people of South Africa in my position at the South
African Human Rights Commission
.


I am here with two other Georgetown students, Danielle Petrilli and
Nyasha Griffith, and the Commission has divided us between three of
its departments: Appeals, Gauteng Province ("GP"), and Legal Services.
I started in appeals, rotated to the GP floor about a week ago, and
will head to Legal Services next week.

As an appeals intern, I dealt primarily with research and analysis related to government legislation on hate speech. One of the most interesting things about S.A. is that its constitution is only 14 years old: it was established after the fall of apartheid in 1994. Most legislative acts enforcing constitutional provisions are even younger than that. Consequently, there is limited jurisprudence on most topics and a wide range of debate on issues such as, "Where does the right to free expression stop and the right to protect human dignity through measures prohibiting hate speech begin?" My particular research was related to situation wherein the Commission found that a prominent union leader did not commit hate speech when he made certain anti-farmer statements following allegations that white farmers had attacked a black farm worker. The farmers' trade union filed an appeal disagreeing with the Commission's finding, and my supervisor asked me to research all possible interpretations of the hate speech legislative provisions. In my memo, I argued that the Commission had been correct in its initial finding, and that in this case, freedom of expression and free political discourse were the most important rights
at stake.

Now I am in the GP division where I deal primarily with complaint intake, but also have the opportunity to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. Yesterday, we drove to a shantytown about an hour outside the city. The place was wreaked with poverty: most buildings were little more than shacks of scrap metal and corrugated steel, children played with toys made from wire scraps, and the "road" was a dirt path interrupted at points by mini-rivers of water, waste and motor oil. The government is threatening to bulldoze most of the town in order to lay water and sewage pipes which would run to another nearby community. While clean water and proper sewage are certainly desirable, the government had not considered what would happen to the people whose homes were destroyed in the process. Adding to the issue
were three individuals who had obtained permits from the municipality to construct "proper homes." They built and paid for these homes themselves, using concrete and cinderblocks to create permanent dwellings. The government threatened to bulldoze these homes as well, even though the people had devoted their limited resources to
purchasing the cement and cinderblock supplies. The demolition has ceased for now, and we are working to have either the municipality reroute the pipes or to have the department of housing provide alternate homes.

Next week I head to the legal services department, which may more aptly be referred to as "litigation." Cases that we can't resolve through mediation at the provincial level are sent to the Equality Court, and I will be assisting Commission advocates in preparing their cases.

Needless to say, I couldn't be in South Africa without the Equal Justice Foundation's help. Thanks to the Equal Justice Foundation, I have gained a great deal of legal experience, and I have also given back to the South African people. I might not be saving the world, but if we can at least save the shantytown shacks from being demolished, then my work here will have been worthwhile.

Government Accountability Project

Bryan Boroughs writes from DC

This summer I'm working at a non-profit whistleblower-protection firm called the Government Accountability Project (GAP). GAP represents clients who have “blown the whistle” on illegal government activity. Usually, these clients were government employees who saw a hidden and illegal danger to the public (faulty aircraft maintenance, poorly constructed levies, etc.). Whistleblowers regularly face harsh retaliation, ranging from termination to decades-long harassment, after bringing a danger to light. GAP helps these clients by helping them with the disclosure process, representing them during litigation, and lobbying for better whistleblower protection laws.



My work as a legal intern is split between litigation and legislative efforts. On the litigation side, I help with intake interviews and legal research. One of my assignments is to work with a client who blew the whistle on unsafe maintenance protocol at a nuclear site. Our client is a terrifically qualified nuclear mechanic who reported his employer for violating maintenance standards at a nuclear reactor. As you can imagine, violating nuclear maintenance standards could have caused catastrophic problems. Unfortunately, rather than being commended for making the plant safer, our client has been fired and blacklisted. He has over 25 years of outstanding work experience and glowing recommendations, but now he cannot find a job in the nuclear industry. So, GAP is helping him with legal action to stop the blacklisting.

On the legislative side, I’ve been helping with GAP’s efforts to get new whistle blower protection laws passed. There are several exciting bills right now in congress. One provides protection for federal employees, and others provide protection for certain industry employees (like food and drug safety or child product safety employees). At different points during the process, congressional staffers come to GAP with questions about the current needs for whistleblowers or the impact certain provisions would have. Helping respond to those questions has been one of my favorite parts of the internship.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

National School Boards Association

EJF has made it possible for Laura Klein to intern this summer at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in Alexandria, Virginia. NSBA is a federation of school board associations from across the country. I was initially interested in interning at NSBA because of my experience tutoring in a West Philadelphia middle school. As an intern in NSBA’s Office of General Counsel, I have had the opportunity to see the impact of both common law and legislation (like No Child Left Behind) on the day-to-day activities of school boards.



A lot of legislation impacts school boards. There is federal legislation affecting everything from employment of teachers to accommodating the needs of special education students. One of my most interesting projects has been researching legislation for reducing childhood obesity. I was interested to find out that physical education is not required by federal law, and when state law mandates it, some school districts just ignore those requirements because of weak enforcement mechanisms. I also learned that some states have cracked down on candy and other snacks in schools (one state even forbids candy from being used as a reward in classrooms!).

A big part of what NSBA’s Office of General Counsel does is get involved as amicus in Supreme Court cases that may impact school districts. On my second day, the office had a meeting to decide whether they should write an amicus brief in a case for which the Court had recently granted cert. I realized how much this internship differs from my pre-law school internships when the attorneys asked for my opinion on the matter! Since then we have had weekly meetings about amicus briefs, which has been a great education in the Supreme Court.

One of the more entertaining aspects of my job is a listserv for all the school board attorneys (both in-house and outside counsel) that are members of NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys. I believe there are about 600 attorneys on the listserv, and they put me on it for the summer so I could learn about education law. The attorneys send out the facts of situations that have arisen and ask the other attorneys for advice on how to proceed. The other attorneys give their opinions and the names of cases on point. The issues cover as broad a range of circumstances as you can imagine, from employment problems (can a school district fire a teacher who drunkenly resisted arrest at a local bar one weekend?) to First Amendment questions (can a church that uses school grounds for services on Sundays include wine in communion in violation of a school policy prohibiting alcohol on school grounds?).

I have genuinely enjoyed my time at NSBA’s Office of General Counsel. All the attorneys are very dedicated to what they do and have been extremely welcoming. My enthusiasm for practicing law has multiplied after just a month of applying the legal skills we learned last year to real-life situations.

Law Offices of Jon W. Norris

Kathryn Gravely shares her experiences:

After working for the Public Defender Service (PDS) here in Washington, D.C., I am now working for a PDS alumni who went out on his own as a private criminal defense attorney and founded the Law Offices of Jon W. Norris. Mr. Norris is rated by his peers as one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the District of Columbia, as reported in Washingtonian and Super Lawyers Magazine. Mr. Norris’ practice is unique in that he does not advertise his services, but rather receives his client’s through referrals from clients and other attorneys. He also takes a number of pro-bono cases, as favors to D.C. Superior Court judges, and represents indigent individuals who are in need of a defense attorney. I had the opportunity to witness Mr. Norris’ most recent pro-bono case, a Felony 1 sexually abuse case, where the jury hung 11 to 1 not guilty. The government decided to dismiss the case the following week.



My job consists of law clerk and investigative duties. As a law clerk I am responsible for organizing case jackets for trial and making sure that the appropriate motions and discovery letters are filed. I work with two other law clerks in the Law Offices and each of us is assigned particular cases to work on. My investigator duties include serving subpoenas, finding and interviewing both government and defense witnesses, and taking statements from government witnesses.
In the end, I get to second chair any trial involving one of my cases and act as Mr. Norris’ assistant throughout the proceedings. This is an exciting opportunity that provides a lot of experience both inside the courtroom and within the Metropolitan community. It certainly has opened my eyes to a demanding world of anticipation, pressure, and skill as a trial attorney.

D.C. Superior Court

Britt Cass shares her experiences from a summer in DC:

I am now seven weeks in to my job as a judicial intern on the civil calendar at the D.C. Superior Court, and I can unequivocally say that this summer is flying by. I feel fortunate to be working in a small chambers—it’s only the judge, her administrative assistant, the law clerk, one other intern, and me here. This means that I have been able to interact with the judge and law clerk (both GULC alumnae!) every day on a variety of matters. They have both been great role models for me (I want to be them when I grow up!).



I was hoping to get a chance to see some trials and other matters before the court. This hope was not in vain; I have seen matters ranging from murder trials to wrongful death medical malpractice trials to Judge Judy-style bickering between neighbors who are seeking protective orders against each other. I have also witnessed quite a range of skill from lawyers. One day, I’m listening to one of the best orators I’ve ever encountered making a closing argument in defense of a doctor accused of malpractice; the next, I’m reading truly atrocious briefs (was my LRW professor fibbing when she said you had to be good at her subject to practice law?).

Before I started, I was nervous about my legal research and writing skills. However, it turned out that the many briefs and memos I have produced have increased my confidence and, I hope, refined my skills in legal writing. The subjects I have researched and written on have been as interesting and varied as the trials I talked about above. All the work I’ve done has been a great reminder of the fact that lawyers work to resolve serious problems for real people. The judge asks me to tell her how I think she should rule on each order I work on, and has actually agreed with me the majority of the time. This summer has opened my eyes to how interesting, challenging, and rewarding legal work can be. I am forever grateful to the Equal Justice Foundation for allowing me this opportunity, since without it, I’m pretty sure there’s no way I could have taken on this unpaid internship.

South African Human Rights Commission

Danielle Petrilli writes from South Africa

This summer I am interning with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Commission was established to investigate the prima facie violations of human rights as contained within the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

In my first week with the Commission I assisted in the inspection of a displaced person camp for the victims of xenophobic attacks in the Gauteng Province. The attacks were largely a result of high unemployment rates in South Africa coupled with increasing numbers of immigrants from nearby, less stable countries, particularly Zimbabwe.

The camp we inspected was set up a few days before our arrival and the residents had been recently moved from various other smaller sites. The day of our visit Johannesburg was rainy and cold, affording our team the opportunity to see the newly set up camp at its worst. The Commission’s task was to investigate not only the quality and availability of things like food, shelter, and water, but also to monitor the set-up of schools, transportation to work, health care, etc. Walking through the camp on such a dreary day with residents swarming for news and the opportunity to tell their story was both frustrating and moving. Interestingly, it was mostly men that approached us or sought news from the camp managers. One of my first lessons in the camp was that due to traditional gender roles, female concerns in such emergency situations easily fall by the way-side. Additionally, adolescents and teenagers are often the last to receive attention for all focus is placed on babies and small children. These were just a few of the lessons I learned in my first day of fieldwork.

I have also had the opportunity to observe several mediations. In one such mediation, I accompanied a legal officer from the Commission to mediate a dispute concerning a piece of land between two Afrikaner ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church. Unwilling to question the status of the land’s ownership with the government, the ministers opted to resolve their dispute within their own community. This mediation was my induction to the tension that still exists for some citizens between the old National Party government and the post-apartheid African National Congress government.

Throughout my internship, I have had the opportunity to engage in many valuable comparative law debates. From formal debates over the status of hate speech in South Africa versus the U.S. to informal discussions about the future of the U.S. presidency, I believe my internship with the Commission has afforded me a plethora of new perspectives. This is an experience I certainly would not have been able to gain without the help of EJF funding.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Merit Systems Protection Board

Shayla Key Parker writes from DC:

A lot of disabled lawyers end up working for the government, blind
lawyers in particular. I think it's partly that federal agencies are
generally scrupulous, if slow, in meeting ADA requirements. I know a
handful of blind lawyers, and they all work for the government and
they all have the technological support they need to do their jobs.

So working for the Merit Systems Protection Board this summer is an
experiment on a lot of levels. I want to know what I feel about
practicing employment law, sure, and I want to know if my interest in
regulatory affairs extends beyond the classroom. But I'm also thinking
about my career path from a broader perspective, considering public
service from every angle, making sure I'm going to end up doing what I
want to do, not just something that's convenient.

I don't really know if mooting federal employment cases will answer
that, or going down to the D.C. Circuit to hear arguments, or any of
the other things I'm doing this summer. I am having a good time – it's
a small, busy, fun office, full of thoughtful people. I definitely
don't feel trapped in what a blind lawyer friend of mine called the
"government ghetto." I feel like I'm doing interesting work in a
lively field.

Right now I'm assessing the legality of a particular hiring practice
and writing a legal memo analyzing its use in various arenas. And I'm
getting ready to write my first informal brief in an upcoming case.
It's the sort of experiential learning that will hopefully teach me as
much about where I want to be in five years as legal research and
writing.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

Rebecca Koford is spending her summer at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Eagle Pass, Texas, and loves her job!
Below she shares some experiences:

One of my clients cries every time I talk to her, and I'm trying not to smile while remembering this, but it's difficult. Horribly inappropriate, I know. But I love that I have clients, and I love it even more that I can actually help them detangle their legal knots.

It feels good to be useful to clients and use some of the things I've learned in the past two years of law school. It feels better to know that a client is sleeping better at night because they're no longer living in complete terror of losing their home, job, or children. It doesn't feel so good to see someone find out that no one in her family wants to help her out because they think she's a lost cause. But at least she has someone on her side.

I've gotten to do a lot in the short time that I've been in Eagle Pass. In the past four weeks, I have interviewed clients in (mangled, but improving) Spanish; written memos, replies, responses, and requests for disclosure; sued somebody; countersued somebody; sat in on hearings in a judge's chambers; and today I visited federal court and jail (twice).

I'm even working on a hot button issue: the border wall. The west side of Eagle Pass hugs the Rio Grande, and the federal government has temporarily condemned land along the river to survey where it wants to put the wall. This is upsetting some of our clients who use the river and the adjacent land for education, research, and even their livelihood. They will not be able to do any of this if the wall is built where the government is proposing. So one of the things we're trying do (and that I spent a large chunk of the last week working on) is to get an injunction so that if the wall is built, it is put in a more sensible location and doesn't completely prevent access to the river.

So thank you to everyone who donated to EJF. Without you, I wouldn't have my dream job this summer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

US District Court for the District of Columbia

Michael Holt shares his experiences:

My first month as an intern here at the US District Court for the District of Columbia is nearly over and, I have to say, working for a federal judge is a pretty great 1L gig. It's also an experience that would be virtually impossible to realize without funding from EJF.



I can't imagine being exposed to such a wide array of cases, in such varying procedural stages, in any other setting. As an intern, I get to see arraignments, hearings, sentencings and all the various proceedings that come between. Being able to speak to the law clerks and the Judge before and after these proceedings has really given me an understanding of many of the nuances of courtroom procedure that would otherwise have gone over my head.

Thus far my assignments have kept me quite busy. Probably the most amazing part of this summer has been realizing that I'm actually capable of doing real legal work. The process of researching and writing is basically like that of completing LRW assignments, except that there is that added incentive of not wanting to be completely embarrassed in front of the law clerks. (I have never spent so much time double checking my cites...)

One of the great perks thus far has been the series of speakers that have come to talk to the law clerks this summer (we interns tag along, too). So far, we have had some prominent speakers from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, NPR and a 'BigLaw' DC firm. (Later in the summer, two Supreme Court Justices are dropping by to chat. Again, what an awesome job!) It's quite interesting to hear the anecdotes of these seasoned lawyers and Washingtonians. But it is even more interesting to hear their candid opinions about recent Supreme Court decisions, sentencing guidelines, and the legal profession in general.

This summer has really been great so far. And I can't help thinking that those folks at other law schools (who can't receive funding for judicial internships) are really missing out. Judges and law clerks are incredibly dedicated public servants. They are also wonderful resources for students who intend to one day pursue a career in government or in public interest law. I'm grateful that EJF recognizes this, and provides Georgetown Law students with the means to spend their 1L summer in such a wonderful legal setting.

Equal Justice Foundation

EJF's Live Auction took place January 29, 2015 in Hart Auditorium and was a HUGE SUCCESS. Check the Facebook page for updates about other ways to help fund public interest activities for Summer 2015