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David Mattern

Posted on September 22, 2014

Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.

When in my first week of work I formally met two Supreme Court Justices, stood a mere few feet from the others, and toured the conference room where the Justices have decided some of their most important cases, I knew this was destined to be my life’s most exhilarating summer. I interned in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court of the United States. As a lifetime aficionado of the judicial branch and a hopeful future attorney, working for the Court provided a unique opportunity to learn about the judiciary’s internal functioning. This experience, the hallmark of my undergraduate career, would have been impossible without the Wellman Hill Political Science Internship Grant.

Along with one other judicial intern, I worked in the Office of the Counselor. The Counselor, Jeffrey P. Minear, oversees Chief Justice Roberts’s non-adjudicative responsibilities (such as the Chief Justice’s role as Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution, his formal speeches and conferences, and the oversight of the federal judiciary). He is like the Chief Justice’s “chief-of-staff,” though this label does not capture his extensive duties.

My intern responsibilities were primarily research-oriented and included summarizing news articles, preparing memoranda and correspondence, and conducting background research for speeches and briefings provided to visiting foreign dignitaries. I collaborated with another intern and the Supreme Court Fellow on a research project that will be presented early next year.

One of the internship’s most rewarding opportunities was the chance to observe the Court’s public sessions (where the Justices announce the Court’s opinions). Court sessions are not televised, and the audio recordings of the Marshal crying “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez” as the Justices enter the courtroom do not do the spectacle justice. It was a unique summer to work in Washington because Justice Souter’s retirement necessitated Senate confirmation hearings for a replacement Justice. Justice Sotomayor was nominated to the Court on my first day of work, and I watched her take the judicial oath one week before my term ended.

My experiences at the Supreme Court augmented my interests in the judiciary. The Wellman Hill Internship Grant enabled me to take the first steps towards a career in law and public service.

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