Interning at the Office of the Public Defender

Hannah Norman, COL ’24, Newport News, VA

This summer I was able to work in the Youth Defendant Unit of the Baltimore Office of the Public Defender. As I’m interested in law and public policy as potential career paths, I enjoyed being able to work in a legal setting relevant to juvenile justice. Gaining practical experience in helping to draft motions and research case law definitely increased my interest in legal practice, particularly related to defense work and public interest. In addition to working on a variety of motions, I also worked on researching Maryland case law to prepare for appeals and hearings.

As the youth defendant unit represents youth charged as adults, a lot of my work was also communications with youth, families, and NGOs. The first few weeks, I spent a lot of time talking to youth and their families to draft motions for bail reviews. This would involve making plans for what youth would do if released on bail, such as jobs and opportunities with NGOs. I also worked on outlining evidence and sat in on trials and hearings. Being able to observe the process and outcomes of trials I worked on was fascinating, and gave me more insight into the legal system.

While I’ve taken law and policy orientated classes at Penn, this work led me to realize the way these concepts play out in reality is much less clear cut. For example, while Miranda rights should ensure that those being questioned fully understand their right to remain silent and speak with an attorney, in reviewing evidence, I felt that this was not often fully observed, particularly in juvenile cases where youth were not able to fully understand the rights being read to them and their implications.

I plan to continue this work over the fall semester, working both with the youth defendant unit and the policy office to do both legal and policy related work. I plan to work on gathering testimonies from youthful defendants to use in hearings regarding a Maryland senate bill, which would end the automatic charging of juveniles as adults.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services