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What are you doing over the summer?

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  • What are you doing over the summer?

    I'm curious to know what folks are doing over their summers in-between mock trial seasons -- specifically anything legal- or advocacy-related. Feel free to post anything interesting.

    I'll start it off. I'm interning part-time in two places, one at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and the other at a program called Legal Assistance for Minnesota Prisoners (LAMP). When I'm not doing either of those, I'm bussing and biking around the Twin Cities observing various kinds of proceedings and occasionally shadowing some people I know who work in a wide variety of legal fields.

    So far the LAMP work has been the most interesting. I don't have 1L certification, so I can't represent anyone, obviously, but I have been going through this huge stack of letters that goes back all the way into January, all written by prisoners asking for help. I always figured this kind of service had to be pretty slim for prisoners, but I had no idea how lacking the budgets and manpower were. I work under the only lawyer in the entire state of Minnesota who handles this stuff full time. Almost all the clients are represented by law school students from William Mitchell, and the waiting list in order to even have a chance at becoming a client lasts anywhere from 6 months to a year. On top of that, because the only people available are student attorneys who live in and around the Twin Cities, the only two prisons in Minnesota, out of more than six, that actually see any real attention from LAMP are Shakopee and Stillwater, so if you're unlucky enough to be a prisoner at a place like Rush City, Moose Lake, or St. Cloud... well, you're pretty unlucky. I see some heartbreaking stuff, like a letter by a prisoner who sat in agony for a month as her appendix gradually came to a burst and the medical staff flatly refused to help her until her abdominal cavity was full of toxins. I see the usual stuff, like a prisoner who needs some basic advice on how to proceed with a divorce and giving over full custody of his children to his wife now that he's got a life sentence and won't be seeing them outside ever again. Also see the bizarre, like an inmate who claimed he found a finger in a can of chilli and wants to file suit, or this amusing call of a class action lawsuit by a dozen inmates at Stillwater who were convinced that the prison was violating their right to privacy for placing cameras in bathrooms ( ). For the veterans of the Cambell case, this should jog your memories (at first I thought this letter was a practical joke): A man requested representation for re-opening his case on the basis that he still claimed innocence after signing a plea of guilty; his surname was Alford.

    Overall the LAMP position has been pretty eye opening, and although I'm basically handling paper all day at this job I still feel lucky to be doing something that makes a difference. In the past week we've sent responses to all inmates whom we plan on at least trying to help. The stack of "We're very sorry, but budget cuts... yada yada" list is four times as long and will be my task for the next two weeks.


    The COA internship has needless to say been very different from the one at LAMP. I signed on under one specific judge who I know a little bit from when she used to work as a district judge in my home county. She's been very open about everything, allowing me to read all the briefs in preparation for the following day's oral arguments, which I sit in on and observe. After the arguments she confers with the two other judges for awhile and then sits me down in her chambers and goes over every case with me, explaining her own thoughts, the collective position of the panel, and answers to any questions I have. She's extremely sharp on the issues and the law, but it's always interesting to hear her opinions on the style and quality of the advocates as well. One thing I've learned is that appellate advocacy varies on a scale that I would say is much wider than the gap between good and bad at the district court level. Some lawyers look like they have absolutely no business being there, and it's disheartening because sometimes you get the feeling that they think the same way about themselves. You've got estate attorneys from a small rural town in southwestern Minnesota who have never argued an appellate case in their life, and then you've got attorneys from the Minnesota Attorney General's office who argue cases concerning the same exact statute in front of COA panels twice a week and are so attuned to their job that sometimes they speak quietly and calmly for two minutes and sit down because they know just by looking at the judge's faces that they've won already. Another thing that I knew coming in but didn't realize was that drastically different from the district court level is that the merits of the case tend to matter a lot more than rhetoric. You can send the best public speaker in the world up to that podium, but if the judge is convinced after reading the briefs and conducting an exhaustive month of research that there is a severe logical problem with your argument, it really doesn't matter how passionate or alluring your rhetoric becomes. At least that's been the experience I've had watching and talking to this particular judge -- she really is a stickler for what the statute says.

    Outside of LAMP and the MNCOA, I've so far managed to see a federal trial as well. Went into it thinking it would be actually kind of boring. Two police officers stopped a car for failing to give a right turn signal. They get up to the car and find the passenger, the defendant, allegedly attempting to conceal a firearm under his seat. They arrest both the defendant and the driver and discover the defendant has a felony conviction on his record, thereby throwing the case to the feds on the charge of possession of a firearm by a felony convict. Open and shut, right? Well, no, because this defense attorney is the weirdest and most unorthodox defense attorney I have ever seen. During jury voir dire she presses two jurors and gets them to admit in front of everyone else that they could not conceive of a dishonest cop. She waives her opening (no, not until later -- I mean entirely waives it). The cops each have 10-minute directs; she crosses them for a combined total of four and a half hours, asking them open ended question after open ended question ("How do you know which bag the bullets from the gun are in and the bullets from the second magazine are in?" "Is it your policy to fabricate justification for traffic stops when you realize upon stopping a car that none exists?&quot She objects to everything, often times coming across as extremely petty (such as objecting to hearsay after the judge instructs both parties on how to properly refresh a witness's recollection, and the AUSA follows that exact instruction). This kind of stuff goes on and on and on... The prosecution calls four expert witnesses -- one for explaining the evidence locker routine, a CSI to explain why no fingerprints were on the gun, an ATF special agent who examined the ballistics, and another ATF special agent who sat at the counsel table as a party representative. She objects to chain of custody... every. time. Finally, we get to the fourth expert and the judge just chuckles and lets the damn evidence in. The peak of the trial was early on, during the morning of the second day. All we've seen so far are the two cops. Before the jury comes in, the judge drops every jaw in the room when he says that he couldn't get any sleep the other night because he felt the two cops were completely uncredible. He says that if he had personally overseen the defense's motion to suppress the evidence gleaned from the traffic stop, which they made earlier in front of a magistrate judge, that he would have actually allowed them to suppress it. He then says that he will allow the prosecution to complete its case in chief, that both sides will do closing arguments, and that if the jury comes back with a guilty verdict he will force the prosecution to put the cops back on the stand for a second motion to suppress hearing. If the cops aren't able to prove that the car failed to signal he will grant the motion to suppress and dismiss the verdict. Yeah. Turned into the most interesting jury trial I've ever seen by a long shot. Unfortunately I don't know the verdict because I couldn't stay for the final day of the trial.

  • #2
    Re: What are you doing over the summer?

    You must be the loneliest or most narcissistic poster on the internet. Maybe both.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: What are you doing over the summer?

      Had some downtime at work was all. I don't think narcissism motivated this post at all. I'm genuinely interested in what folks are doing this summer, and I would be the first to guess that many people are doing things far more interesting than me. The fact that a bunch of mockers attend school in NYC, LA, Chicago, and DC should be proof enough of that.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: What are you doing over the summer?

        1,515 words...

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: What are you doing over the summer?

          [quote author=Exact link=topic=4649.msg188493#msg188493 date=1276922246]
          1,515 words...
          [/quote]

          LOL. Okay, most everyone here already knows I'm the last person who would be caught dead defending how much time I spend on Perjuries, but I asked an honest question. This wasn't supposed to be about setting a bar and waiting to see if anyone could match it. At this rate whoever can summarize their summer with the most brevity appears to be the pre-determined popular favorite anyway.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: What are you doing over the summer?

            First person to say "hey hey smoke weed every day" as a response to this will probably win.

            My summer is being spent fretting over the LSAT, fretting over Semester at Sea paperwork, fretting over whether I can get a fucking peer reviewed article published before admissions cycles start, and fretting over my husbands' various anxieties.

            I am a full-time worrier.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: What are you doing over the summer?

              Take a seat, hope you're ready for the next episode hey-yeah-hey-heah... smoke weed every day.

              My summer is all about the the LSAT too!
              James Pennington
              UK College of Law 2014

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              • #8
                Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                Ditto on the LSAT prep. and Mock Trial, Mock Trial, Mock Trial. Gotta love it.
                MLIMT

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                • #9
                  Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                  I'm spending it at American, which, before reading this thread, I didn't know had a team. I'm teaching mock trial.
                  "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." ~Mark Twain

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                    [quote author=GhostofTomJoad link=topic=4649.msg188505#msg188505 date=1277008068]
                    I'm spending it at American, which, before reading this thread, I didn't know had a team. I'm teaching mock trial.
                    [/quote]




                    That's awesome. Yea, we're a new team, going into our third year. I'm here for the summer too trying to get everything together.
                    MLIMT

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                      Calc and LSAT prep. Please send chocolate.
                      Denny: I'll have that jury eating out of my lap.

                      Alan: Hand.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                        Studying for the LSAT as well, and working for IT Services at my university.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                          Second chairing a couple of my mom's trials (prosecuting sexual assault mostly of kids). Mostly I wanted to get a perspective on realism in court proceedings so I can weed out anything too mock-y in my approach. I think sometimes we forget that our judges are legal professionals in the real world whose expectations have much more to do with what they see every day than what we think of as good mock based on other rounds we remember. Plus this past year at times we had judges who wanted to conduct the round much more like "real" court than we're used to, i.e. no objection volleys or long, extra mock-y witness answers.
                          And Dr. Charney...you're a bit of a rare, exotic bug yourself, aren't you?

                          Columbia 2009-2011
                          Fordham Law School / Fordham--Lincoln Center coach with misplaced priorities 2011-present

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                          • #14
                            Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                            [quote author=Affidavit Goliath link=topic=4649.msg188730#msg188730 date=1278332038]
                            Second chairing a couple of my mom's trials (prosecuting sexual assault mostly of kids). Mostly I wanted to get a perspective on realism in court proceedings so I can weed out anything too mock-y in my approach. I think sometimes we forget that our judges are legal professionals in the real world whose expectations have much more to do with what they see every day than what we think of as good mock based on other rounds we remember. Plus this past year at times we had judges who wanted to conduct the round much more like "real" court than we're used to, i.e. no objection volleys or long, extra mock-y witness answers.
                            [/quote]

                            If this were Facebook I would "like" this. Though it is weird you're second chairing to your mom. One of my parents does criminal law advocacy, and I just can't see myself working beside them.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: What are you doing over the summer?

                              Eh, Collin, I'm just another pair of eyes and ears really. I wouldn't call it "working beside" her, I just write down things I notice, like if the defense opens any doors, pretty much the same thing I do for my teammates in mock rounds. Good practice, I didn't mean to overstate it. But if this were Facebook I would "like" you "liking" it
                              And Dr. Charney...you're a bit of a rare, exotic bug yourself, aren't you?

                              Columbia 2009-2011
                              Fordham Law School / Fordham--Lincoln Center coach with misplaced priorities 2011-present

                              Comment

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