Hello! My name is Susie Garibay and I’m currently interning at the Public Defender’s Office at Washtenaw County. I’m double majoring in political science and international studies, with a focus on international security, norms, and cooperation. I’m under the supervision of attorney Nichollette Hoard inside the Juvenile Court, where we deal with juvenile cases who have been charged with misdemeanors and felony charges. The first week, we attended morning hearings in front the referee, where they are given information our client’s cases and their progress, according to their probation officer’s updates, and make recommendations as to how they should proceed with the clients’ cases. Afterwards, as undergrad students, we are given tasks such as calling client’s families on future court dates and ask for other relevant information, in addition to doing research on topics given to us by Nichollette for the use of recommendations for our clients.
During our first week, we encountered some interesting cases. On the first day, two specific hearings stuck out to me. The first was on a 12 year old boy who came into court with shackles on and two other bodyguard-like men, but they weren’t there to protect the boy. Prior to the hearing, the adoptive parents had a very intense discussion with the kid’s probation officer and assigned attorney Nichollette Hoard. While the latter two recommended for the adoptive parents to have more affectionate conversations with the kid, who seems to have a personality disorder due to his biological mother selling him off for drugs, the adoptive parents strongly insisted on sending him off to a three month long probation residential program and hinted at “returning” him to the adoptive agency. The parents seem to want to get the kid off their hands instead of providing solutions to the kid’s mental/emotional issues, which is often the case in other other cases.
On a positive note, the second intriguing case we came across on our first day was on a young woman in her early 20s who was charged with assault when trying to defend herself from her then abusive boyfriend (now her ex). However, with the help of her probation officer’s very touching report, she proved to the referee that the young woman was a positive, contributing member of her community with a goal to work at U of M’s hospital. With this, her charge was dropped and will be able to have an easier time when applying for jobs. When reflecting over these cases, it has become obvious that in order to become an improved member of society, it is important to be intrinsically motivated, as well as have a supportive family and community nearby.
Because of the large number of interns working at the Public Defender’s office, it seems our assigned attorneys aren’t giving out many tasks for their group of interns to do. While we have been given assignments to call clients to retrieve information and do small research, we have not been able to do work that gets us involved face to face with our clients or other officials (besides our assigned attorneys). Because of this, I try to gain the most out this internship experience by attentively watching hearings and taking note of what recommendations are given based on the kid’s charges and actions taken after the incident.