Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Family Court Division of DC Superior Court, Washington, DC

By Tasha LaSpina

This summer, I am interning at the Family Court division of DC Superior Court, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. My judge’s calendar consists primarily of child custody cases, although we also hear a good number of divorce, alimony, and child support matters. Often the cases are tied in with Domestic Violence or Abuse and Neglect cases.
Most days, I sit in the courtroom next to the court clerk, and take notes on the orders the judge is granting to the parties. Then I type up these orders , run them by the judge, and then get them docketed and filed, and sent out to the parties. I also sometimes assist in looking up case law or conducting legal research. This has helped me to learn more about DC’s standards for custody, as well as to gain a better understanding of some of the common problems pro se litigants, attorneys, and judges face in custody cases.

However, what I enjoy most about my position is that I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with both the parties and the judge. For example, during a custody hearing, I often talk separately to the parents involved in the custody dispute to find out what their concerns are about visitation arrangements, and then I prepare a draft visitation schedule which I then discuss with the judge so that she can issue a final order. I also speak with the parties that come into Central Intake with an Emergency Motion for Custody – after interviewing them to find out if there truly is an emergency situation such as parental kidnapping or abuse, I report my findings back to the judge and brief her on the case.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit in on many other trials that are going on in other Superior Court divisions, such as criminal trials, domestic violence hearings, and arraignments. Last week, I attended a “Guardian ad Litem” training session presented by the Children’s Law Center, where I learned what it takes to become a Guardian ad Litem (an attorney who acts as a neutral party representing “the best interests of the child” in a custody case).
I have really enjoyed learning more about the inner workings of a courtroom, and having the chance to see judges, lawyers, and Guardian ad Litems in action. I love how each day brings a new set of hearings and a new task for me to work on. I feel like I’m learning so much from my internship, and I’m gaining the kind of hands-on experience that one cannot get from a classroom. The experience has strengthened my interest in Family Law and in doing pro bono Guardian ad Litem work in the future.
I'm grateful for the EJF funding that has enabled me to spend my 1L summer working in such an interesting field, and gaining such valuable experience. I would not have been able to undertake this internship without EJF’s support.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Greater Boston Legal Services

By Matty Rich

This summer, I have the opportunity to intern with the Housing Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services. GBLS provides free civil legal assistance to low-income people in Boston and the surrounding areas and towns. It assists both clients on an individual level as well as addressing systemic problems. GBLS has many other units besides housing, including but not limited to elder law, health and disabilities, family law, and employment law.

In my few weeks here, I have already gotten the chance to do a wide variety of work. So far I have been able to perform legal research on the requirements to file for supplementary process in order to collect on a previously won judgment, assist with client intake, and file papers in the Cambridge court. Currently, I am working on drafting a complaint to file on behalf of a client who was wrongly rejected for a government housing subsidy.

Beyond my opportunities to perform work myself, I also have the chance to learn from the attorneys I work with by seeing them in action. For example, I was able to accompany my supervisor to a meeting with a tenant association. At this meeting, they planned what legal strategy they would pursue to fight the proposed demolition of a government subsidized apartment building. Getting to see the real world implications and meet the people directly impacted by my work has made this an all the more meaningful opportunity for me this summer.

If not for EJF, I would not have had the opportunity to spend my summer at GBLS. GBLS cannot afford to pay its interns and without EJF, I could not have otherwise afforded to live in Boston. I am very appreciative of EJF for helping to make my summer possible.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Children's Law Center, Washington, DC

By Allison Green

The first few weeks of my internship at the Children's Law Center (CLC) in Washington, DC have just flown by. CLC is a non-profit organization that advocates for children and families. It's largest project is the GAL division, which provides attorneys who represent "the best interest of the child" in child abuse and neglect proceedings. The office also has a Family Permanency Project, which represents caregivers in custody and adoption cases, and a Health Access Project, which works in local medical clinics to address systemic issues that cause health complications for young people.

I've already had the chance to do some really fascinating work. I've observed a number of court hearings, agency reviews, treatment team meetings, and consultations with clients. I've also done substantial research for my supervising attorneys, including legal research on family law issues as well investigation into local social services. The best experiences have been getting to know clients and their families, who are truly inspirational. Each interaction has affirmed my ongoing commitment to this work.

In addition to the first few days of training provided by CLC, there have been lots of opportunities to keep learning along the way. I've already attended an advanced GAL practice training, a caregivers representation training, and a host of other presentations on lawyering skills intended to keep us interns up to date on current issues in the field. My supervisors are also terrific about helping to make this summer a tremendous learning experience. Whenever I observe their work, they take the time to explain their legal strategies and decision-making processes. Especially when dealing with complex family law matters, these are things I can't learn from textbooks, so its great to learn directly from practitioners in the field.

I'm so grateful for the EJF money that has enabled me to spend a summer at this wonderful organization. I'm looking forward to the rest of my time here, and to returning to campus in the Fall feeling refreshed and reinvigorated about my legal career.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

National Health Law Program, Washington, D.C.

By Timothy Zhu

This summer I am interning for the National Health Law Program in its Washington, D.C. office. NHeLP engages in health care policy work for underrepresented and disadvantaged populations. Since my background from my undergraduate studies and prior work experience was heavily health care-related, accepting this position seemed like a natural transition for my first-year summer job.

The office is not particularly large, so there is a lot for interns like myself to do. Because health care reform is a cornerstone issue for the current Congress and White House, right off the bat we are afforded the opportunity to attend productive meetings with key Congressmen and leaders from various advocacy and community interest organizations. The NHeLP staff is on a first-name basis with many of them and do not hesitate to include us in these rapid developments. Thus far I have been drafting implementation guidelines to help hospitals meet federal accreditation requirements in order to be legally eligible for Medicare and Medicaid funding. I have also attended hearings on behalf of NHeLP, featuring a veritable Who’s Who of the health care reform movement, in order to record and relay the presentations and developments to staff members who were unable to personally attend.

Due to its public policy-oriented focus, the work schedule here often corresponds with that followed by the federal lawmakers. Consequently, there’s a strong sense of pride and obligation in serving as an essential cog in the machine to pass a monumental piece of legislation. And as the urgency of the legislative process picks up, so does the atmosphere here. That hardly seems to bother the people here—they are truly passionate about their work. They really love what they do, even if it means staying well into the evening every night of the week.

Finally, we work next door to other public interest organizations, namely the National Senior Citizens Law Center and the National Immigration Law Center, so I can have plenty of exposure to other public interest fields and interact with their staff and interns.

Washington, as you all know, is an expensive city to live in, and to that end the generous support of EJF has been essential. I want to thank all the contributors and volunteers who made EJF funding possible.

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