Yeah, it’s been entirely too long.

21 01 2011

My school’s graduation requirements require that a student does some form of externship or clinical program before they walk at commencement. For my requirement, I am going to Ann Arbor two days a week to work for the public defender’s office, primarily doing misdemeanors.

A typical day’s work starts at 8:30 am or thereabouts, when the particular judge enters the courtroom. Students like me working on the office get to appear on the record under Michigan Court Rule 8.120, allowing us to actually practice as attorneys (in a fashion). The majority of cases are either minors in possession or driving violations (mostly suspended licenses that are quickly resolved before the defendant even gets to court). It is fair to say that a lot of my appearances on the record are to ask for adjournments, in order to obtain more discovery documents (like the police report) to represent the client better.

One thing I’ve learned as that court proceedings are not as formal as I am used to in Mock Trial and Moot Court. Usually when one of the defenders or externs are up on the record, another one will be trying to cut a deal with the prosecutor, mostly to plead guilty to lesser charges which often do not require jail time. In other words, there usually isn’t as much “order in the court” as television shows would have you believe.

In addition to courtroom time, externs are sometimes asked to go interview clients in the holding cells. There is a stark difference between the individuals in street clothes fighting minor things and the people in jail, usually there for more serious misdemeanors (alcohol or drug related, and sometimes retail fraud). It’s sobering to think that these people are around our ages (or even younger), and forced to spend a few nights in a jail cell.

I’ve only been in court a few days so far (but am going back tomorrow, at least based on the time I’m writing this), but already I’ve had a few touching moments. I think the moment I most felt proud of was getting a person out on bond from a marijuana possession charge, even though the prosecutor was against him being released. Poor guy had a busted arm and mental problems, but he was so eager to submit to drug testing in any effort to stay out of prison. I even got to speak to his mother, so getting him out of prison was pretty cool. My hope is that he learns his lesson and doesn’t come back.

So I’m getting anxious for court tomorrow. I’d like to see what the city of Ann Arbor did over the weekend. Should be an interesting day.

 

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2 responses

21 01 2011
Gabrielle Johnson

Are you SERIOUS with this post? Seems like I have seen it before…

21 01 2011
conscientiousdissenter

Shut up, I’m lazy.

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