Maya Frost-Belansky '20 interned at the Boulder Regional Office during the 2019 winter term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.
During my internship this winter at the Boulder Regional Office, I assisted attorneys with a variety of legal and administrative tasks to further this mission. The Colorado State Public Defender represents clients accused of criminal offenses who are either being held in custody or who are unable to afford private counsel. The Public Defender’s mission is to ensure that high quality legal representation is available to all persons. My responsibilities included drafting and filing basic motions including requests for medical furloughs, preparing paperwork for the daily bond court session, reviewing discovery with clients, and summarizing vast quantities of evidence.
One of my main projects surrounded investigating which bonds (personal recognizance bonds versus cash/surety bonds) are issued to which people. Our office observed a startling disparity in the number of personal recognizance bonds awarded to our clients compared to the number awarded to defendants from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. This awareness of the unique issues facing poor and minority defendants will certainly advise my future work in criminal defense. Having never worked in any sort of law office before, I was initially intimidated by the jargon and by the number of day-to-day activities that I was completely unfamiliar with. However, my fears were assuaged almost instantly when one of the attorneys noticed the perplexed look on my face and leaned over to explain what “a split plea with a deferred sentence” meant.
During this internship, I learned how to do things many people won’t learn until well into their time in law school. For example, I learned how to draft and file motions, review evidence with clients, analyze and summarize vast quantities of evidence, and create trial notebooks. These are all tasks that a criminal defense attorney would need to do on a near daily basis and getting to learn them now was such a privilege. Creating trial notebooks showed me the amount of work that attorneys must do to prepare for trial and alerted me to the large number of factors they must consider when deciding what evidence to present and which strategies to employ. Additionally, I focused on how identifying concerning statements was excellent practice for my future work in criminal defense.
This internship definitively confirmed that I am interested in pursuing public interest law as a career. Talking with the attorneys opened my eyes to a number of career possibilities outside of being a local Public Defender as well. I have tremendous respect for the demanding work that local Public Defenders do, but I think I’d like to address some of the issues our clients are facing at the legislative or appellate level. One of my favorite things I experienced during this internship was our office’s monthly tradition of “Law Day”, during which we discussed the latest appellate decisions handed down from the Colorado Supreme Court. Equally important, the fact that I enjoyed doing this sort of work day in and day out for ten weeks confirmed that criminal defense is something I could be happy doing in my career. I’d like to thank the Rockefeller Center for making this internship possible. I had a truly wonderful experience, and it wouldn’t have been possible without their generous support.
The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.