Robert Castle '20 interned in the chambers of Judge Richard M. Berman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York during the 2020 winter term.

I spent my winter 2020 off-term interning in the chambers of Judge Richard M. Berman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Southern District is often regarded as one of the most influential district courts in the country given its jurisdiction over Manhattan. 

My main responsibility while at the Court was to determine if Judge Berman’s unique policy of having supervised release defendants come in for regular status conferences, even when they’re in good standing with parole, reduces the proportion of defendants that fail to comply with the terms of their supervised release. This practice is unique because most federal judges only see supervised release defendants after the parole office has reported a violation. To analyze the policy’s impact, I developed a database of about 140 of Judge’s supervised release defendants. I also created a variety of metrics to track a defendant’s compliance with their terms of supervised release. Examples included whether or not they were employed, if they had been arrested, and whether or not they were attending mental health and drug abuse treatment. I obtained the necessary information to evaluate a defendant across these metrics by analyzing status conference transcripts and probation reports. Of the approximately 140 defendants in my database, I only had time to analyze how 79 of them had performed across the recidivism metrics I developed. As such, I feel relatively confident that Judge Berman’s regular conferences do have a significant benefit and that this impact will be observed once the dataset is complete. Although I won’t be able to do so myself, an intern this summer will complete the analysis. It felt great to develop the framework for a long-term project in the chambers.  

Judge Berman told me that if regular status conferences are found to have a significant effect on reducing recidivism rates once the analysis is complete, he’s planning on presenting our results to others in the Court who are interested in improving the supervised release process. He specifically mentioned that he’s interested in coordinating with SDNY’s RISE Court, a special program focused on reducing recidivism rates by providing defendants with intensive supervision. This could potentially lead other SDNY judges to develop a policy of regular supervised release conferences similar to Judge Berman’s. It’s very gratifying to know that my work could potentially help to keep more supervised release defendants in good standing with the law and out of jail. 

One of my main learnings from this experience was that a key to succeeding at work is finding how you can leverage your specific abilities to meaningfully contribute to your organization. In my case, I was able to utilize my experience with quantitative analysis to develop a methodology for determining the effectiveness of Judge Berman’s supervised release policy. This experience also had a significant impact on my short and long-term career plans. Regarding the short-term, this internship provided an excellent opportunity to practice my data analysis skills. I’m confident that this additional experience will prove to be valuable when I begin working in management consulting next year. As for the long-term, this experience confirmed my interest in attending law school after a few years of work. I would like to sincerely thank the Rockefeller Center for its generous support. Without them, it would have been much more difficult for me to have pursued this amazing internship experience. 

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.