The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held on February 17 at the Law School. Proceeds from the event go to support PILS Fellowships to enable Marquette law students to do public interest work in the summer. Don Applegate, a current law student, shares his experience here as a PILS Fellow.
Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?
I worked at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Boston.
What kind of work did you do there?
I was placed in the Narcotics Unit for the summer, so I had the privilege of working with many Assistant DA’s whose main goal is to make the Boston community a safer place to live. My time there was equally divided between writing various motions and conducting investigative work. Some days would be spent drafting Direct Indictment Memos or Memos in Opposition to the Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Evidence, and other days would be spent watching security camera footage or listening to jail calls to assist an ADA with an ongoing investigation. Also, every week a Unit Chief from the DA’s Office would address all the office interns during the lunch hour. It was fascinating to hear the various tasks each unit is responsible for, how the different units work together, and how passionate every employee was for their unit.
How was the experience meaningful to you?
I had a front row seat to see how the criminal justice system works–the key word being justice. I saw how the DA’s Office as a whole values justice above conviction rates and how the Office cares just as much about helping victims, witnesses, and the community as prosecuting an alleged criminal. My favorite example of how the Office gives victims a voice is the Now You See: A Celebration of Courageous Kids initiative. This project reveals the bravery of sexually and physically abused children by including a photograph of the child’s eyes along with a description of the eyes in the child’s own words. This is just one of the many examples how the Office uses unique and innovative ways to help victims other than prosecuting on their behalf. In the end, I saw a side of the lawyer profession I had not strongly considered for myself before last summer, but this experience has inspired me to further pursue this career path.
What did you learn in the course of your work?
During the summer, I learned about how the criminal justice process works in general, various motions and how important a role they play in each case, tips for how to interact with victims or witnesses, and how diligent one must be to become an effective prosecutor (just to name a few things). One of the most valuable places to learn, however, was inside the courtroom. Many ADA’s invited me and other interns to observe different court proceedings and trials. This alone was an invaluable experience, and everyone in the Office encouraged us to go to the courthouse to observe whatever we could because, as one ADA told me, “we would be watching the best of the best do what they do.” Just observing a trial and how both parties’ lawyers conducted themselves and their own cases was an experience I will always remember.
What do you like best about doing public interest law work?
The most rewarding aspect of public interest law work is the impact it has on the community. I knew that even though what I was doing might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it was just one of the many important small steps in maintaining a safe community. Everything I did with the Narcotics Unit pursued the ultimate goal of taking dangerous people and substances off the street.
What are you doing to help with the PILS Auction?
Leading up to the Auction, I helped solicit donations with several other PILS fellows. On the day of the Auction, I will help with setting up, I will be co-running the Plinko game, and I will help people retrieve silent auction prizes for winners at the end of the night.