As a First-Year Fellow, Michael Nachman’21 interned at the District of Columbia Superior Court under the mentorship of Jennifer Chandler ’82. The following is an excerpt from his final report.
This summer, I worked as a judicial intern at the District of Colombia Superior Court in the Chambers of the Honorable Judge Berk. Judge Berk was assigned to the felony calendar at the this summer. This job encompasses not only overseeing trials, but also administering arraignments, guilty pleas and preliminary hearings, ruling on motions, deciding pretrial release conditions, and sentencing the convicted.
I began my internship learning the ins-and-outs of preparing case files, processing documents, and taking notes on court proceedings. However, my internship changed drastically after three weeks because Judge Berk's senior clerk left unexpectedly to take a new position. After Diana's departure, the "office" became a group of three: Judge Berk, his junior clerk and myself. My responsibilities expanded once chambers were under-staffed, and I gladly took on more substantive work to lighten the load on Jordan, the junior clerk. I learned how to "prep cases", which meant writing a memo every afternoon to prep Judge Berk for the next morning's twelve-to-fifteen short hearings. Before Judge Berk took the bench the following morning, we would brief him on the upcoming cases using these "calendar memos", and he used them as a guide for the morning hearings. As the hearings happened, Jordan or I took notes on the memo to have a record of the case the next time it appeared before the judge. I had different responsibilities in the afternoon, when trials took place. Generally, I had the opportunity to do background research, write memos on motions filed by the parties that assisted Judge Berk when deciding his ruling, and assist Jordan when he drafted orders that ruled on written motions. My specific responsibilities during trials varied case-by-case, dependent on unresolved motions and issues raised throughout the trial.
This experience has inspired me to consider applying to law school more seriously than I ever have. Additionally, I foresee that I will want to pursue litigation experience if I do go to law school and will want to clerk for a judge. The clerk-judge relationship is clearly a special bond, and clerking allows one to have a hand in issues, directly out of law school, that would take years at a firm to access. Working at the Superior Court this summer surpassed my expectations. I recognize that this experience is not one that many students my age have, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone at Dartmouth College and the Superior Court for selecting me for this position and making the internship possible. My time in Judge Berk's chambers was pivotal to my academic development and an unforgettable experience.