I came to my internship at my local Federal Court House in New Haven, CT, expecting to dive into problems of social justice, and discover clear (and present) solutions. What I did discover instead, is an incredibly complex justice system, with both strengths and weaknesses. I very quickly learned that nothing in law is as quick or straight-forward as it’s depicted on television. Series like “The Wire” or “Law& Order” depict a system of intense, near constant high-drama which seems to fit the medium upon which they’re broadcast. By contrast, the real drama of the courtroom plays out in a coded language of motions, orders, and various out of court conferences, proceedings, and hearings. In fact, most of the cases I have seen never have, and never will go to a trial (by jury or by bench). As has often been cited and discussed in recent years, well over 95% of Criminal cases use “plea deals” – agreements between prosecutors and defendants, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty, most often in exchange for a reduction of the Prosecutions’ request for sentencing. Thus, most of the action I’ve seen “courtside” has been non-trial proceedings.
The experiences I’ve had so far both in and out of Court, have been incredibly enlightening. While I can’t extrapolate to the entire Justice System, every judge and lawyer that I’ve seen have struck me as individuals whose care and concern, both for the welfare and rehabilitation of the defendant and the safety and security of the public are carefully weighed with each decision. These men and women are charged with preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States, and supporting the often difficult pursuit of truth and justice. This task contains within it the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of generations of Americans, yearning for a more perfect Union. I have immense respect for the men and women I have met so far, who nobly carry out this mission. As the summer continues, and I begin to become accustomed to the unique language of the Courtroom, I look forward to learning more about our system of justice.