By Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley (Ret.) Lecturer on Law and Director of the Judicial Process in Community Courts Clinic
Already this semester, students in the Judicial Process in Community Courts Clinic have provided hundreds of hours of research and drafting assistance to judges in the state and federal courts. Budgetary limitations, particularly in the state courts, have reduced the number of full-time law clerks to the point where law student help is invaluable.
The Community Courts Clinic places students with judges for an internship experience combined with classroom discussion of issues judges face each day including sentencing, judicial ethics, the jury, court management and alternative dispute resolution. Students gain the unique opportunity to work alongside a judge, experience firsthand the inner workings of the court system, and see how issues of modern-day society unfold in the courts on a daily basis.
Alysa Harder is a 3L student interning with the Suffolk County Superior Court. “I’ve had the opportunity to work on challenging research and writing assignments that matter, and to observe and discuss a wide variety of fascinating high-stakes court proceedings, civil and criminal. This internship has put so much of what I’ve learned in law school into context, and has been both very practical and very intellectually satisfying.”
Dayme Sanchez, a 2L student, is interning with Judge Bonnie MacLeod in the same Superior Court. She says that through her internship she has seen what it is like to actually be in a courtroom and present a legal argument before a judge and jury. Dayme describes Judge MacLeod as her role model. “Her mentorship has assisted me tremendously in learning the ins-and-outs of the trial court” she says. “It has prepared me for my future goal of becoming a trial litigator.”
Students have also made significant contributions to the community courts, including the Boston Municipal Court and the Quincy District Court. Their work in criminal cases has covered the field, including motions to suppress based on claims of improper identification procedures, improper traffic stops, and violations of the Miranda rules. Students have also worked on motions to dismiss criminal charges and motions seeking discovery of the identity of confidential informants.
All this law student legal research and writing would be unavailable to their judges in the present financial circumstances of the Massachusetts courts. So in addition to the value of the student-judge conversations and the courtroom observations inherent in judicial internships, the Community Courts Clinic is meeting an immediate need of our local judges.