Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office, Cleveland, Ohio
Thanks to the generosity of Ms. Elizabeth Hill and the Wellman Hill Grant, I was able to intern this summer at the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office. The office itself is broken up into four divisions: Felony, Appellate, Juvenile, and Municipal. I had the pleasure of working within both the Felony and Municipal divisions.
I began my internship in the felony division and was immediately thrown into the fire. Any request that an attorney made involving one of their criminal cases, we interns were responsible for it. The attorneys assigned me to write various legal motions, to be approved, we hoped, by the presiding judge. Some examples included motions to suspend court costs, recall an arrest warrant, consolidate cases, obtain occupational driving privileges, and mitigate a sentencing. Writing these motions was initially problematic, but the other interns were very helpful in providing me with examples that were similar to what the attorneys were requesting. It also took time to familiarize myself with the Ohio Revised Code, which contained the legal basis for all of the motions I was preparing.
This internship not only introduced me to the technical aspects of criminal law, but also the interpersonal ones. I was often tasked with assisting walk-in clients seeking to have their criminal records sealed by the court and requesting executive pardons from the Governor of Ohio. Additionally, I began logging client information during the court’s initial appearance and arraignment processes. It was here that I learned to interact with clients in a professional legal manner, understand the problems affecting their lives, and provide them with answers as to how our office would assist them. By the same token, I learned the fundamentals of criminal procedure.
During the latter part of my internship, I began serving the Public Defender’s Municipal Division. My new assignments were rather similar to the ones I had become accustomed to. However, they were more numerous and time sensitive. They were also mostly related to traffic incidents. These differences stemmed from the fact that every case in this division is from an alleged misdemeanor offense, rather than a more serious felony offense. As one of the office’s paralegals accurately noted, the Municipal Division is comparable to a hospital emergency room in terms of its operations. Meanwhile, the Felony Division more closely resembles hospital surgeries.
I enjoyed working in both departments equally. They each provided me with meaningful legal experience in assisting our community’s citizens most in need. This internship has confirmed my decision to attend law school and devote my career to urban public service. Clerking this summer at the County Public Defender’s Office is one of the best decisions that I have made in my life and I am indebted to the Wellman Hill Scholarship for making it possible.