Hi! My name is Olivia and I am a rising senior majoring in Psychology. This summer I am interning at the Hartford Public Defender’s office located in the Connecticut Superior Court of Hartford, Connecticut. The Division of Public Defender Services is a state-run agency that works to ensure that indigent persons charged with a criminal offense have access to quality legal counsel in the event that they are unable to afford to hire a private attorney.
Here in Connecticut, the criminal courts are divided into two parts: Judicial Districts (JDs) and Geographical Areas (GAs). There are 13 JDs and 20 GAs in the state. Hartford has both a JD and a GA, ours is known as GA #14. Cases are sent to either the JD or GA based on their severity and the level of charges a person is facing. Misdemeanors and lower level felonies are heard in the GA while higher level felonies are heard in JD.
As an intern, I am often the first point of contact for many of the clients we serve. Every morning, myself, along with the other interns in the office, go down into the courthouse lockup to interview everyone who has been arrested the night before and inquire if they want to apply for a public defender. Afterward, we put together all the files needed for their arraignments. An arraignment is a person’s first appearance before the court and it usually involves an argument related to that person’s bond. In addition to overseeing this aspect of our office’s work, I participate in investigative trips into the community, write up record reviews for social workers, and shadow attorneys. This is my second summer interning here, and because of that, I am able to work more closely with many of the people in the office and be more thoroughly involved with cases.
I believe the work that I and the other interns do is important for helping our clients to feel supported in a time where many of them may feel they have no voice and are likely experiencing a myriad of difficult emotions. I hope that through working even more closely with the lawyers and staff this summer, I am able to learn more about important communication tactics I can use in my future law career to ensure my clients feel as though they have agency throughout their case. Additionally, my academic goal for this summer is to examine more closely how psychology and mental health intersect with the legal world. By strengthening my existing connections with the office social workers, I hope to gain more exposure to this aspect of legal defense.
I look forward to updating more about the always interesting events that take place in and out of the courtroom, as well as discussing the complex issues that relate to criminal law. I am so excited to be back in Hartford for the summer and back in this office that I love so much! Stay tuned!
– Olivia Kalsner Kershen ’19