Friday, February 13, 2015

Hitting the Internship Lottery

This summer I had the opportunity to work for a federal district court judge in Alabama. I honestly think I had the internship lottery. The judge was also an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama. He cared more about what his interns were getting out of their experience than what he was getting out of his interns. After an initial assignment to review our writing skills, he and his staff would ask about our interests and what we wanted to accomplish. He then assigned us to a law clerk that was working on such a case, and I was grateful to work on a habeas appeal from the state courts. 

But more than the research and writing skills, Judge Coogler gave us opportunities to see things we will never get to see in a classroom. I had the opportunity to tour two prisons to see how the facilities are run and the opportunities and drawbacks of each. I was also able to meet with officers at the Tuscaloosa police department to learn about finger print analysis and crime scene investigations. I saw sentencing hearings, met with different judges, and was even able to observe a criminal jury trial from beside the bench. And in one of the coolest moments of my life, I had the opportunity to put on a training suit and get attacked by a police dog.

Through my experience working on the habeas petition and my greater understanding of the conditions prisoners find themselves in, I felt the injustice that comes from having a bad attorney and the constant injustice that comes from having an apathetic one. When I expressed my interest in public defense, Judge Coogler helped me get a week at the federal defender’s office in Birmingham. That week confirmed my desire and has helped guide my decisions through this year of law school. 

My summer in the judge’s chambers opened up more opportunities than I ever could have dreamed. I was surrounded by professionals who wanted to help me in my journey through law school and genuinely wanted to teach me everything I longed to know. Without this experience, I may still be a lost law student unsure of my path; with it, I am confident and more prepared for my future than I could have imagined. Such an experience is only possible with EJF funding. Judicial internships are completely unpaid, but I still needed to pay for my apartment in Tuscaloosa and supplement some of my subletted apartment in DC. Because of EJF funding I was able to take the internship with the judge and have peace of mind about my summer finances. A once in a lifetime opportunity with peace of mind… I could not have asked for a better summer.

- June Gargus, Georgetown University Law Center L'16

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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