by Dan Soleimani
This summer, I’ll be interning with the Juvenile Rights Practice of The Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn, New York. My work this summer will be evenly distributed between two very different types of law: Juvenile Justice and Termination of Parental Rights. In working on juvenile justice cases, I will be the attorney assigned to representing juveniles accused of having committed crimes in New York City. Like any typical criminal defense attorney, I’ll be responsible for evaluating the government’s case against my client, investigating the facts of the alleged crime, and ultimately representing my client at trial in the Family Court of the NY Supreme Court (the trial court of the NY state court system). This will be a fantastic opportunity to practice my legal writing and litigation skills on a daily basis. I’ll be spending the other half of my summer representing individual juveniles in an entirely different context.
When a parent or guardian has neglected his/her legal duties to a juvenile, the government may choose to bring a civil action against that parent or guardian in order to terminate his/her parental rights, and remove the juvenile from that individual’s custody. New York is understandably concerned about the interests and well-being of the juvenile during this complicated and often heartrending process. As such, attorneys in The Legal Aid Society are assigned to represent the child’s interests during the investigation and prosecution of the government’s case against the child’s parent or guardian. I will be spending the other half of my summer representing children who have become ensnared in this unfortunate process. My role will not be to tell the juvenile whether they should stay with their parent (if the court allows it), or whether they should leave their childhood home and move in with a foster family. Instead, I will have the responsibility of being the child’s voice at the hearing, and expressing my client’s wishes and interests to the parties at bar.
Perhaps the most appealing dynamic of a summer internship with The Legal Aid Society is the opportunity to work in two very different fields of law. Although I’m committed to working on some sort of juvenile rights issue post-graduation, I still haven’t settled on a particular field of law. I’m confident that this internship will expose me to a wide range of juvenile rights issues, and will help me further hone my interests. Also, the internship will give me a fantastic opportunity to develop my litigation skills. Both components of the internship will allow be to be in and out of court, in hearings and trials, almost every single day this summer. However, since the position is unpaid, there is no way I could have accepted this unbelievable opportunity without my EJF summer funding.