Midway at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

Working at the Malden District Court has been a truly immersive experience. I’ve made it my personal goal to attend as many jury and bench trials as possible, and at each one, I’ve made detailed notes of the prosecution and defense attorneys techniques in opening, closing, and cross examination. Through these notes, I’ve been able to witness a plethora of styles of oral advocacy.  Surprisingly, it helped me better understand how attorneys face audiences, whether juries or judges, when presented with trials.

Outside of the workplace, I’ve gotten to know the attorneys and court personnel of our office and court and talked about their experiences in law, law school, court, and lives as legal professionals. It’s been a great way to get an insight into what it’s actually like to work in the public sector as a criminal prosecutor, and I’ve felt more than welcomed by all of my peers to ask and inquire as much as I’d like.

The staff at my office are phenomenal at teaching me anything I’d like to know.  So within the past two weeks, I have learned how to create redacted copies of case files, file discovery notices, and create CTU folders (I’ve included a blank picture of one here). This takes hours of time off the attorneys hands, and in the process, I get to learn about what the different components of a case file (like the elements of discovery) consist of and how they are relevant to investigation.

While I was watching a jury trial, I asked an attorney about the significance of side-bar conversations with the judge during trial. After she explained it to me, she noted, “This is the stuff they don’t teach you in law school!” At first, that statement was shocking to me, because it seemed as though court proceedings and techniques would be necessary to teach in law school, but the more trials I attended, the more I saw her point. Academic life is a wonderful way to learn about the law, master it, study case law, and become an expert in the components and contents of the law and case matters. The most representative of the difference between on-site and off-site learning can be exhibited here with this Annual Report.  It contains a wealth of information, and it all becomes much clearer once you are actually in the court watching it happen. Practice and observation is where I have learned the intricate details in oral advocacy and court etiquette that make all the difference when bringing a case to trial. These hands-on experiences are what show me what makes a successful defense attorney or ADA, because the requirements extend beyond what case law can teach you. (For instance, here’s some information regarding the types of jurors that exist in the MA court system: http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury-info/trial-and-grand-jurors/ http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury-info/mass-jury-system/ )

Not only has this experience taught me to properly analyze, observe, and interpret case files and trial proceedings, but it has also taught me to become a better oral advocator myself in enhancing my organizational and communication skills. I know how to present myself in court and to the public, and I’m learning how to closely read cases and spot relevant information that might be important or worth noting for future arguments. These are vital skills that will carry with me through my academic career at Brandeis and law school, but they will also assist me in all other areas of my life in my professional career as a lawyer, my personal interests in reading and writing, and my on campus involvement with student groups that aim to reach and affect wide audiences. It’s been a wonderful first four weeks, and I’m more than excited.

Nadisha Wickramaratne

First Week with the Middlesex District Attorney

I have just concluded my first week interning at the Middlesex District Attorney’s office (MDAO), and I’ve already learned more than I could have anticipated in such a short period of time. The MDAO office consists of prosecutors and public servants designed to help effectively prosecute cases and provide prevention programs and partnerships for the community. (A list of those programs and areas of prosecution can be found here.) Since last Wednesday, I have been working in my own office on the first floor of the Woburn office alongside with legal interns, an administrative assistant, and Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs). My internship assignment is with the Malden Superior Court, so my assistance in the Woburn office has been focused on cases related to the Superior Court division, which handles serious criminal crimes with possible prison sentences of more than 2 ½ years (more info on differentiating the Superior Court from District Courts can be found here on the DA’s website!). So far, my biggest assignment with this office has been reviewing jail calls by a person incarcerated at a House of Corrections facility who is awaiting trial. My job is to listen to the records of his jail calls from visits and recreation phone calls to see if the inmate admits to the crime or leaves hints about his crime or other crimes he may have been involved in. These notes will eventually serve to assist the ADAs in their investigation. I listened to over 100 calls so far from 3 CDs! Each CD contains about 22 hours of footage, and I included a picture of them below:

http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/courthouses/ipswich-marl/malden-district-court-generic.html

After spending a few days here in Woburn, I realized that I am very interested in observing how the court process works, so I asked my supervisor if I could attend a few days of my internship at the Malden District Court (featured above), and now I will be working there three days a week (with the remaining two days at the Woburn office). Yesterday was my first day, and the moment I stepped in, I witnessed 12 pleas in three different court sessions. The ADAs were constantly moving, and it was fascinating to watch them conduct each session. It was also the first time I ever heard a criminal plea, and by the end of it I could recite the informational requirements the Judge gives to each accused before he gives his plea (Otherwise known as Criminal Procedure Rule 12 subsections a through d, found here.) It was perfect to analyze the court system and learn about pleas directly from the judges, accused, Defense Attorneys, and ADAs themselves.

Following court, I was given a desk at the ADA’s office, and within four hours, I had already assisted with case research and case filing for three different attorneys. All of this help went directly to their case files, which affects how the cases will be treated moving forward and how they will be filed in the District Court system. I was also told that the next time I go to court, I will be helping organize more of their case files while I watch the trials. This way I’ll be able to help the attorneys better access the research they need for trial while I learn about how the trials work by observing.

This internship experience has so far met my goals to learn about the role of the Prosecution and objectives of the DA in defining justice above and beyond, and I’m very excited for the next few weeks for me to get involved in more in-depth projects and see how much more I can be involved in. I began this internship with the intent to learn more about prosecution and the DA, but I also wanted to fully immerse myself in the experience so that I could learn about areas I didn’t previously know about. After just one week, I’ve already learned about prisons systems (from the inside), the role of detectives at crime scenes, the role of judges, appellate courts, and members of the DA office like Victim/Witness Advocates that I work alongside in my office at the court. Featured above is only one of three folders that I’ve received from my supervisor filled with information about criminal justice, the court, the DA office, elements of crime, etc. Everyone is eager and willing to help and talk with me whenever I have questions, and I’m excited to start my next week to see what else they have to show me!