King County Department of Public Defense South Felony Division
Michael Schueler is Rule 9 Legal Intern at King County Department of Public Defense South Felony Division. It is one of four public defense agencies serving King County's criminal justice system.
July 1, 2013
Since beginning my work as a Rule 9 intern with the King County Department of Public Defense South Felony Division (formally Associated Counsel for the Accused) I have had the pleasure of working on a wide range of cases and have had a chance to work on cases at all stages of proceedings 7#151; from arraignments to trial and sentencing, I have had my hand in a little bit of everything as I start my seventh week on the job. Beyond the general felony assignments, I have also been able to work in drug court on a limited basis.
The King County Department of Public Defense is the primary office of appointed defense counsel working with indigent people in King County. The accused in Washington have a right to have counsel present during prosecutions pursuant to the Sixth Amendment; Article 1, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution; Gideon v. Wainwright; Argersinger v. Hamlin; and Alabama v. Shelton. The King County Department of Public Defense provides the accused with constitutionally guaranteed counsel. Prior to July 1, 2013, King County was represented by four non-profit defenders, including the Associated Counsel for the Accused (ACA), where I was employed until it was subsumed by the County.
Since I'm primarily assigned to a felony unit and the liability to clients that is inherent in felony prosecutions, my active trial role has been limited. I primarily do behind the scenes work helping prep for trial and helping with various issues that arise at trials. To that end, I have written and proposed jury instructions to use at court for a first degree burglary case and a possession with intent to distribute case. I also have researched various issues, including accomplice liability in a residential burglary case, and if child protective services can intervene in a case where a pregnant woman was using drugs. I also have written a presentence report, helped conduct the presentencing interview, and responded to the prosecution's presentencing memoranda. That case resolved favorably with the judge agreeing with the vast majority of my presentence report and recommendation. Finally, I have made substantial edits and revisions to a suppression of statements (CrR 3.5) brief in a first degree murder case and am currently drafting the suppression of evidence (CrR 3.6) brief in the same case.
Beyond this out of court work, I also have represented clients in court at various proceedings. Currently, I represent out of custody clients at arraignments on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays. In this role, I counsel the client about the process that occurs during arraignment and then represent them before the chief presiding judge in Kent. I also have counseled clients and conducted a review hearing in drug court, with favorable outcomes. Beyond these limited hearings, I sat second-chair during a trial for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and helped the attorney during voir dire (taking notes suggesting questions) and generally observed the entirety of the criminal process. Finally, though not in court, I have interviewed clients one-on-one on numerous occasions in person and on the phone.
So far, this position has taught me invaluable lessons about how to interact both with clients and the court. I have already become somewhat comfortable presenting information to the court and explaining procedure and issues to clients, and I know this comfort level will only continue to rise as time continues. Beyond this, the position has helped solidify my legal writing skills and made me more aware of various issues that may not be obvious on the surface.
As the summer moves on, I will likely begin to take on more in-court rules, including handling contested hearings (bail, motions, etc.) and will continue to have contact with clients on a regular basis. I hope that before the summer ends I will have figured out my courtroom style and will be comfortable speaking before a judge and further will be comfortable interacting with clients one on one. I have high hopes for the rest of the summer and hope that I can continue to be a part of ensuring client's get the best possible result from their trial.
Aug. 16, 2013
My, how the summer has flown by! Next week will mark my last week working as the felony Rule 9 at Associated Counsel for the Accused (ACA, a division of the King County Department of Public Defense) South Division, and I wish I had more time to spend with the agency. I never knew it was possible to have so much fun working.
Since my last update, I have managed to become more involved in a number of cases and had some tremendous successes for both myself and, most importantly, my clients. My biggest accomplishment this summer has stemmed from my work on one case that I stuck with for the last month and a half. I first was tasked with writing a severance motion (severance of a two-count information). These motions are rarely won by the defense due to Washington's liberal joinder rule and my supervisor thought it would be a good motion to cut my teeth on because the stakes are rather low. Amazingly enough, I drew a good judge and after a 10-minute argument and a brief rebuttal, I managed to convince the court that there was a strong risk of prejudice to my client to keep the counts joined and that joinder did little to further judicial economy. This win changed the course of this case and helped elevate the defense to a position of power.
Since then, I have been the primary interviewer of two witnesses in the case, including one of the key detectives. I also just finished a 3.5 brief (suppression of statements pursuant to CrR 3.5 as violations of the Fifth Amendment and Article I, Section IX of the Washington Constitution, as well as Miranda v. Arizona, Edwards v. Arizona, and Rhode Island v. Innis), which I may be arguing the morning of trial. As it currently stands, I also get to second chair the trial (if it goes) on Aug. 27.
Working on this case has been eye-opening and allowed me to see what the flow of a real case looks like. It also has been a rewarding experience because of the possible resolution for the client. Once severance was granted, the state became amenable to settlement, and my client may now face a term of six months instead of 24 months. Helping to buy a person a year and a half outside of prison is one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. This feeling was furthered when I spoke with the client about the outcome and could sense the elation the client felt.
Beyond my felony load, I also have become a regular participant in drug court, meeting with and interviewing clients about their sobriety and how the program is working for them, as well as representing them in the proceedings and requesting changes to terms of participation of the court. This process has been incredibly rewarding to participate in and the amount of help it provides to clients is palpable. Watching someone turn their life around and beat drug addiction (as well as earning a dismissal of felony charges) is outstanding.
Through all of this, I have learned quite a bit about how I handle myself in court, how I deal with (sometimes difficult) clients, and how to best present before a judge to get the best results for my client. I know without a doubt that public defense is the right career for me and I relish every opportunity to be before a judge arguing and helping to ensure that my client has excellent representation.
Beyond these learning points, I have been able to foster numerous contacts within the King County criminal court system which should help me pursue this career after law school. Though I am sad to be leaving this outstanding felony unit, I look forward to the challenges the future holds for me. I want to also say thanks to PILF for making this summer internship feasible for me — I would not have been able to have this career-affirming experience as well as helping people in need without PILF's generous grant.