By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)
Students interning with Massachusetts trial judges through the Judicial Process in Community Courts Clinic far surpassed their colleagues from past years in the hours of legal research and drafting they contributed during the Spring Semester. The fifteen students who were placed with judges in the Boston Juvenile Court, the Boston Municipal Court, the District Courts, the Superior Court, and the U.S. District Court, provided over 650 hours of legal assistance to their assigned judges in matters ranging from motions to suppress and dismiss in criminal cases to motions for summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings in civil cases. Individual students put in between 40 to 60 hours on complex issues like a motion for new trial challenging the application of the felony-murder rule, or the admissibility of a juvenile’s statements in the absence of an “interested adult”, or the analysis of the role of the confrontation clause. Other students worked on employment and contract litigation as well as several administrative law matters challenging state and federal agency decisions.
All of this student assistance comes as a time when budgetary restraints in the Massachusetts state courts have reduced the numbers of full-time law clerks thereby increasing the value of law student interns. As one of the participating judges put it, “She was terrific, … she managed to prepare a complete draft opinion in a not insignificant case. … Keep it up. And send me prospects as good as Ms. O  and Ms. M .” Student evaluation of their judges regarding the opportunity to observe and write for them was equally positive, including comments like, “Yes, Judge M. was a great mentor. I learned a lot from her” and “Judge S. was fantastic. She was very accessible and included me in her daily schedule,…”
While this is not a traditional advocacy clinic, students continuously recognize the value of being right beside the judge as courtroom events unfold. As one student commented at the end of the semester, “It was beyond helpful to experience the courtroom dynamics and become more familiar with proceedings.” At the same time, Massachusetts trial judges are obtaining research and drafting assistance currently in short supply.