A Little Bit of My Personal Thoughts

Where to begin… ? For some reason despite the massive amount of material on which to write about, I am having trouble keeping all my thoughts contained into the framework of a single post. In my last blog post, I attempted to summarize the role of the courts, their subunits, and a summary of how the various departments interact. While perhaps a languid necessity, I feel that understanding the hierarchy and interaction of the various courts and courts staff is essential to the understanding the specific responsibilities and duties that I perform in my internship, notwithstanding the importance of this information in appreciating how our legal system works. This one will go into a bit of my personal observations throughout my experience, especially about our justice system and crime in our society

 

(I should note-and this applies to all my writings and posts- is that I am an intern speaking from my experiences, my perceptions, and my understanding of the court system and our justice system. My thoughts, experiences, writings etc.  are in no way meant to reflect, insinuated, infer, or otherwise suggest the opinions, beliefs, or perceptions of the court,the court staff, and the judiciary. I am simply and humbly submitting my thoughts and reflections which extend not further then my hand or head and speak solely for me. I do so with the greatest respects.)

So, as most of you know (hopefully) I am currently interning at, with, and for the 22nd Circuit Court in Downtown Ann Arbor. Also known as the Washtenaw County Trial Court, the Circuit Court has 7 Judges, each handling a specific area of the law, divided between Criminal, Civil, Domestic, Probate and Juvenile with considerable overlap among judicial responsibility. Having been there since June of this year I have had considerable opportunities to watch proceeding in each area of the law, and under each judge. These opportunities have been extremely helpful in my appreciating the extreme diversity of the law, the diversity of judicial review, and the unilateral consciousness, work ethic, and moral fortitude of all the judiciary in their consideration and execution of the law.  While watching court Is an extremely insightful and interesting experience, I have been fortunate enough to not simply watch proceedings but participate in them both directly in the court room and in preparation for a docket of cases. The basics goal required in my job is simple:  To support the Judiciary in executing their day-to-day responsibilities. Fortunately, while interning for a judge is certainly one of the most detailed and meticulous jobs one will ever perform in the legal environment, it also is one of the most diverse, the most interesting, and the most insightful experiences as well, allowing one the opportunity to read, review, and prepare cases for hearings, witness the inner workings of our court system, and seeing how the realities of our Justice System are far different then the perceptions.

 

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this experience and the greatest privilege I could have hoped to have in a professional setting is my proximity and relationship to the judges and their judicial attorneys. Not only am I able to witness and absorb the great insight of the law and of justice that is gained through both years of legal practice and these individuals years on the bench, but I have also been able to gain valuable insight and advice regarding legal education options and the direction that would be most interesting and enjoyable for me in the study of law (perhaps one of my greatest uncertainties) As if this were not enough, I also have been able to gain valuable networking and professional skills showing, (I hope) my consciousness, my determination,hard work, and my interest and passion for the law. Finally I’ve been able to see how fortunate I am, how many opportunities I have had and have, and how lucky I am that I have had every opportunity, every attention, and every advantage possible; something that is something that is atypical at the least and extraordinary at best. There are many times when I see a defendant or read a case file, usually about some 21 or 22 year old that is facing a lifetime in prison and I ask myself – Why? Why did he rob or shoot, or kill that man? Why did he rape that poor woman? Was it hate? Was it opportunity? What drives another human being to commit the most heinous of crimes?

To great extent, these suppositions go unanswered. For many individuals, crime is an inherent part of themselves, something that rather than repulsive, is looked on with indifference.. For some crime is entertainment, a way to amuse their sociopathic personalities. For others, it is the outcome of hate; hate of others, hate of society, and invariably, hate of themselves. For most it seems however, crime is simply another act of life;  a way to escape from the limitations and boundaries set by society; a way to survive in a callous world.. When a person grows up in a slum with a missing father and a working mother it seems far easier to understand how such individuals turn to crime. When a person grows up in a culture that uses drugs, that sells drugs, that view drugs as the equivalent of aspirin, how does one not fall into that culture? It is easy to condemn from across the bar, easy to evaluate from our own experiences and pass judgment on those far less fortunate and able then us.

This experience has helped me to restrain that impulse; that rather than condemn, I try to stand in another person’s shoes and see the world as the world is for them; a view that often, far from optimistic, is one of depression, fear, anger, and the need to survive. I often wonder; could that have been me?  Would I have done some criminal act? Sometimes the answer is no: that the crime committed beyond the heinousness and maliciousness of a normal human. More often however, the answer is less clear a kind of well, maybe but….” Or a “possibly. Though…” etc. This obscurity while perhaps being unsettling is insightful so, insightful as to the faults we all exhibit as humans: insightful to our shared need of physical and emotional stability and attachment, but most of all, for me, it is insightful as to the importance of treating each individual that comes into court, whether an attorney, a party, or an incarcerated, all of them, regardless of my personal views, need to be treated according to be treated with courtesy, respect, and a presumption of innocence, remembering and asking myself the question, what if that were me?

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An Overview of the Courts

Hello, I hope everything is well since the last time I posted. Things are staying busy as there are always different things going on that I can help with and learn from whether it is simply running papers to different offices, filing judges notes, pulling court cases, writing memos, completing orders, or simply watching trials, the opportunities for education are endless.Although I am not an employee of the court with a specific set of job responsibilities, my position as an intern is enviable in that I am allowed to interact with all the court departments and their members on a regular basis, allowing me not only to bridge gaps of communication that naturally occur between various departments, but also allowing me an experience and perspective that would otherwise be  impossible would I have been confined to a more defined role. Especially for someone who does not have previous experience or knowledge of the court processes, being an intern is provides some of the most diverse work experiences of any position in the court, one through which I am able to learn about court procedure, protocol, and politics, seeing not only how the court operates in administering and overseeing the law but how it and its members are instrumental in ensuring something far more important and far more challenging; the execution of  justice.

Now, in order to describe what a typical day is like in court, in the next blog post I must first describe what the 22nd Circuit Court does, what it does not do and how it is departmentally administered.  I hope you will indulge me in bearing with me through this little spiel about our court system. While not especially exciting it provides an excellent overview to understanding the overall objectives and responsibilities are of the various courts and their employees, what duties they perform, and how their individual responsibilities each help to support the rule of law in the United States. So without further commentary, here is a brief summary of the Judicial System and the 22nd Second Circuit Court.

The court opens up at 8:00 a.m. monday through Friday, and, with the exception of holidays and furlough days, maintains this schedule all year. The current court-house, located on 101 E. Huron Street is a Modern looking (and notice I said “looking”) building that runs about a half a city block and is the home of the 22nd Circuit Court of the County of Washtenaw, in the City of Ann Arbor.

Now,Circuit Courts are “the third tier” of our court system, handling all Civil cases in the amount of 25,000 dollars or more and all criminal cases where there has been a felony charge, a misdemeanour which incarceration is a penalty  and all domestic cases such as divorces, and custody disputes. Underneath the circuit court are the district courts, and under the auspices of the district courts are the traffic and municipal courts (note: not all municipalities have them). Above the Circuit Courts is the Court of Appeals. his court hears, well, appeals to the verdicts rendered by the lower courts. They are responsible for either affirming or rejecting a lower courts decision. Should an individual or entity appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals, the case goes before the Michigan Supreme Court. Composed of 9 justices, the Supreme Court hears cases from the appellate courts and either affirms or strikes down the lower court’s rulings.It is the court of last resort pertaining (excluding the U.S. Supreme Court) and has the last say with regard to the interpretation of Michigan laws.

While there are also federal courts, it would be far too lengthy to go into detail as to their role in our legal system. It is sufficient to say that while similar in organisation to state courts, their role is the interpretation of Federal law, as well as appeals issuing up from state courts. There role is to serve as the evaluators as to the constitutionality of  statutes and rulings of Federal, and occasionally, state law.

Now the question remains, How are these courts run? Does a judge just sit on a bench and randomly pick people that they would like to hear? No of course not. To support the interpretation of law, each court has various administrative departments whose job is to support the activities of the judiciary. Included in these administrative divisions at the 22nd Circuit Court are: Circuit Court Services, (handles all the processing and filling of motions, as well as orders related to circuit court cases)-Probate Court Services (similarly provides support like CCS but to the Probate Court)- Central Assignment (performs all the administrative functions of the collective courts including scheduling/purchasing/security/etc.), Probation(self-explanatory), and the Friend of the Court(a government agency that supports the judiciary in investigating, recommending, and mediating cases.)

In addition, the court also houses the Washtenaw County Bar association (a local chapter of the legal fields professional governing body) and Legal Services, a resource available to the public that  provides individuals direction, supplies them with the appropriate court forms.

While this is simply a summary, it highlights the majority of administrative departments that help the court run smoothly or as smoothly as one could expect. With thousands of thousands of documents that are handled and processed each day, the ability and dedication of support staff is exceptional, and is something that without, would crippling to the court. They are truly exceptional and dedicated individuals, who collaboratively with the judiciary in order to execute and administer the laws of the United States. Whether in the 22nd Circuit Court, a traffic court, or the Michigan Supreme Court, the aforementioned departments and or their equivalents are essential to the courts operation. Simply put they are unexpendable.

I hope this helps a bit to understand a bit of the structure of the courts and how they actually operate. My next post will be a summary of the judiciary’s responsibilities and my role in helping to support such responsibilities. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions: I would love to read and perhaps answer them. Until next time, cheers!

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An Unbelievable Opportunity: My Internship with the Washtenaw County Trial Court

Well, where to begin? I suppose that is a question that takes a moment of reflection: Where do I begin? Do I start with my entry into college, into the realms of higher education that sought to prepare me for the responsibilities of the professional world? Do I begin in high school or even eighth grade english class, classes on a topic I thought was “dumb,” stupid” pointless, etc etc. ? Or do I begin this story earlier still, from growing up seeing the harsh realities of what life was like outside the comfortable realm of loving family life, and knowing from an early age that I wanted to help people.

While my motivations may be overerly simplified and perhaps a bit  clique’, It would be untruthful to describe my motivation as anything different. I wanted to be a police officer, I wanted to be an FBI agent, I wanted to be a Senator, I wanted to be CIA Agent, I wanted to be President, to be Diplomat, to be Security Executive, the list goes on and on. Despite changing slightly in specifics over the years, my motivations for school, for work, for life have changed very little: I still want to help people; I still want to be someone who is an example of integrity and decency; a person who respects, and has the respect of others. Now, I know all this seems a bit like mushy teary eyed reminiscence directed off into a tangent having more  to do with some  golden, youthful idealism then an introduction to my experience as a college intern. Yes, it may be that as well but in reality, it is  the perfect introduction to what has been an unrivaled opportunity; an opportunity not only to gain valuable networking skills, to establish a professional persona,and to learn the politics and interactions of the law but more importantly, to help people – to gain perspective.

Simply being able to gain one or two of these things would be well worth the unpaid hours and the weekly assignments, but to receive all of these things to make an entrance into the professional world, to see the intimate details of the legal process, and to gain, at least some assurance, that despite the realities of life tarnishing the  light of nieve idealism or nieve ideallism blinding us from the realities of life, there still remains opportunities to see the world as it really is; to see both the light and dark, and be able, not only to gain perspective on one’s fortunate place in the world, but to help create a little more light. Sometimes having such opportunities is simple; all one has to do is ask.

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Hello and Welcome

Hello Everyone! I think it is appropriate to provide a brief overview of what my intentions are in blog, what I am actually blogging about, what the relevance of the information within contained holds toward developing some region of academia, and in general what can be taken away from the observations, experiences, and commentary that are described throughout the course of this blog. I hope the information I include here allows you receive some insight, perspective, or knowledge that would otherwise be absent, and at the very least, to provide some elements of educational and entertainment value through the process! Thanks for reading!

 

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