Tuesday, July 28, 2009

United States Attorney's Office, San Diego, CA

By Ryan Harrison Peeck

I am a Law Clerk in the Major Frauds section of the United States Attorney’s Office in San Diego. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is housed in two buildings in San Diego, the Federal Building and the AT&T building across the street.

Clerking here has been a wonderful experience and I have had the opportunity to do a lot of very interesting work. The Major Frauds section handles all of the district’s significant white collar crime and other complex criminal conduct aimed at wrongful economic gain. The section makes extensive use of all available investigative tools, including federal law enforcement agencies and grand juries.

My favorite project this summer resulted from being asked to write large portions of an appellate brief to the Ninth Circuit. Because I was entrusted with all of the research and writing for my assigned sections, I learned a great deal. I have also been fortunate enough to take a very active role in the cases being handled in my section, in addition to writing motions, memos, briefs, and researching.

Clerking for the U.S. Attorney’s Office has put me, more often than I expected, in the heart of the matters being handled. AUSAs working in the office excel at what they do, are passionate, and are also quality mentors. For someone seeking to hone his litigation and writing skills this has been a perfect match! I would strongly encourage anyone who wants a career in litigation, civil or criminal, to consider a clerkship with a U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Monday, July 27, 2009

United States District Court for the Western District of New York

By Michael Snodgrass

I work in Buffalo (Go Bills!) for the Honorable Richard J. Arcara, Chief Judge for United States District Court for the Western District of New York. On a side note, "Chief Judge" means the longest serving judge on the court. The main responsibility of the Chief Judge is setting the local rules. While there are minimum federal requirements which all District Courts must adhere to, District Courts can also supplement these rules. For example, Buffalo has a rule that all plaintiffs and defendants must have local counsel. Even if a person's main counsel flies in from Los Angeles or New York and his/her local counsel never appears in court, he/she must have local counsel hired. That way, if the Judge needs something (i.e. an attorney for a five minute status conference), a local counsel will be able to show up immediately.

Most days, I start off the morning by observing court proceedings. The most interesting and distinctive proceedings are oral arguments, which have ranged so far this summer from a products liability suit over tree stands (the seats that hunters strap to trees and sit in all day), two companies fighting about R+D in a navy contract for new scuba gear, supervised release for the leader of a biker gang, criminal charges for the recipients of a crate shipped from LA to Buffalo with 377 pounds of marijuana, and a man who ran a Ponzi scheme (i.e. paying off old investors with the money from new investors) for thirty years by advertising in the bulletins at Catholic Churches. Most days, I will spend an hour or two observing court and the rest of the day working on judicial decisions. I am working on Social Security Disability cases all summer. When a person claims to be too disabled to work, he applies for Social Security Disability. If denied, he can request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. If the ALJ denies his claim, he appeals to a review council. If the Appeals Council denies the claim, he can bring a civil suit in US District Court, alleging that the Commissioner of Social Security did not have substantial evidence for his decision or committed a legal error. I review the cases (usually containing 500-1000 page medical files and multiple briefs from both sides) and write the decision, either denying benefits, granting benefits, or remanding the case to the Administrative Law Judge for further proceedings. As long as my decision is fairly logical, based on hard evidence and precedents, and well-written, my law clerk and Judge will defer to my judgment on the case and my decision will get signed by the Judge.

Working in US District Court has been an amazing opportunity to observe court proceedings of all different shapes and sizes, meet interesting people from the US Attorney's office and local counsel, and see Civil Procedure in action (Professor Abernathy would be so proud). If you are interested in US District Court, be prepared to be very formal in dress and etiquette, and be prepared to learn as much as you can from the smart, friendly, hard-working law clerks (thanks Monica and Joe!), observe important and intriguing oral arguments, and see the American ideal of equal justice for all play out at the trial court level of the Federal Judiciary.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Magistrate Judge, Southern District of Florida, Miami, FL

By Eric Gonzalez

I am working as an intern for Federal Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton of the Southern District of Florida. I work in the Atkins federal courthouse in downtown Miami from Monday through Friday, from 9:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M.
A federal magistrate judge handles matters that United States District Judges refer to them. While these matters are largely pretrial motions, such as motions to compel discovery and motions to suppress evidence, the parties can consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. The parties’ consent gives the magistrate judge the full powers of a district court judge with respect to their case.
My experience at the courthouse has been anything but boring. I have undertaken a variety of activities. I attended a trial, pretrial detention hearings, and suppression hearings; have toured a federal detention center; and, have attended oral arguments for the eleventh circuit court of appeals.
The projects that I participate in are also unique. I have worked on a federal habeas claim, a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act, have written pretrial detention orders, and am currently researching arbitration agreements as they relate to motions for attorneys fees.
These varied projects represent only some of the things that I learned this summer. Working at the courthouse has shown me a lot of the administrative challenges that the judicial system faces. As a court of first review the Southern District of Florida handles several pre-trial motions, all while conducting trials, holding hearings, and reviewing warrants.
In short, I am having an interesting experience learning about nuanced legal matters as well as broad administrative concepts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Earthjustice, Juneau, Alaska

By Christopher Peloso

I’m spending my summer up here in Alaska working for Earthjustice. It’s a non-profit law firm that provides legal services to environmental groups. The office up here in Juneau does a lot of work with timber, oil, and mining issues, all over Alaska, but mainly with the Tongass National Forest. Right now I’m working on some Clean Air Act issues with offshore drilling off the northern coast. They’ve got some really solid attorneys here, and they do very important work. For example, we just argued a case in the Alaska Supreme Court a few weeks ago with regards to a toxic mining wastes and the Clean Water Act. Earthjustice has all the benefits of working for a law firm, but you can help save the environment instead of protecting polluters.

They say it rains a lot in Juneau, but in the first two weeks I was here it didn’t rain a drop. The attorneys keep telling me to leave early and take advantage of the sun to go hiking or kayaking (another advantage of working here as opposed to a stuffy DC law firm). The climate here in Juneau is a lot more like Seattle than what most people would think of as Alaska. Plenty of outdoor activities here, pretty much everyone here owns a kayak and hiking boots.

Juneau is a pretty small town, but the people are very friendly and the views are incredible. It’s right at the base of some mountains, and also on the shore of an inlet that leads to the Pacific Ocean. Bears, whales, seals, and bald eagles are all over the place here and you can’t go more than a few days without seeing one in your backyard (although I’d prefer to not see them so close up!). The interns from all the environmental groups here in town (Oceana, SEACC, etc.) get together for activities on weekends. I think next weekend we are going to go kayaking in Glacier Bay.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

By Geoff Rapoport

This summer, I'm interning at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The OSTP is a federal agency located within the Executive Office of the President and headed by the President's Science Advisor, Dr. Holdren. The two major functions of the office are providing science advice to the President and helping to develop the President's budget priorities for science activities.

One major perk of the job is the opportunity to meet and work with exceptional people. In my first month, I got a fist-pound from the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, talked one-on-one with the President's Science Advisor about the benefits of a cap-and-trade system over a carbon tax, and met the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. While I have not yet met Bo, on Tuesdays I volunteer in the White House Garden and I am hopeful that he will make an appearance on the South Lawn soon.

I've been doing most of my work for two people: Rachael Leonard, the Acting General Counsel of OSTP, and Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO for Open Government.

Almost all of my work for Rachael can be traced back to enabling the President to get science advice from the advisors he has chosen. This includes ensuring that the members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology are in compliance with all relevant financial disclosure laws and providing other employees of OSTP with advice on how to comply with the ethics laws that affect them.

For Beth, I have been reviewing some of the law around open government issues. Unfortunately, sometimes otherwise good law gets in the way of everyone's best intentions. Web 2.0 tools are very hard to reconcile with the Federal Records Act, which envisioned a world where everything that needed to be saved for future historians was already on paper. I am also looking at what is required for an agency to implement an innovation incentive prize program (like the Ansari X Prize).

I'm only halfway through, but it has been a special experience for which I'm very grateful, both to the EJF donors who are keeping a roof over my head and to the people at OSTP with whom I work.

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