Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
Shantrice Anderson is a law clerk at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. PDS provides quality legal representation to defendants through a team of attorneys, investigators, and staff.
July 1, 2013
Hello from our nation's capital! This summer, I am fortunate enough to be in Washington, D.C. and I am truly having the time of my life. I am interning as a law clerk at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. PDS provides attorneys for defendants in the District.
PDS is often regarded as the number one public defense agency in the country, and for good reason. They have a wealth or resources available to the client, including civil attorneys, staff investigators, and an in-house forensic scientist. The attorneys are also fortunate to have a significantly lower caseload than other public defenders, and this gives them the ability to spend more time and effort on the cases they do have.
The best part about PDS is their client-centered approach. They advocate strongly for their clients and the clients truly are the reason that the attorneys work as hard as they do. It's inspiring to see such strong bonds formed between the attorneys and the clients, and it reminds me every day that I'm in the right organization.
Each law clerk works one-on-one with an attorney in one of PDS's many divisions, including Trial, Appeals, Juvenile, Special Litigation, Parole, Mental Health, etc. I am working in the Trial division and my supervising attorney is absolutely amazing. He's smart, extremely dedicated, and funny. The rest of his team includes a staff investigator, and two intern investigators. We all work in concert to make sure our clients receive the top-notch representation that PDS is known for.
The work is also pretty interesting. The first week, I got to seal records for PDS's Expungement Summit. The expungement laws in D.C. just changed in January. In fact, they aren't even valid yet! As such, we had a three-hour crash course on one of the most complicated subjects I've ever learned. I was so nervous that I wouldn't remember how to properly seal a record, but when I got to the summit, everything flowed. The clients were patient and there were attorneys floating around whenever I had a question.
I've also had a chance to see a trial from start to finish. It gave me a new appreciation for the work that lawyers do, as I saw how much time and effort my supervising attorney put into this case. It was very interesting to watch, and I felt like I was living an episode of Law and Order!
Beyond working hard, this office sure knows how to have fun. The dress code is very casual and the attorneys only wear suits to go to court. My coworkers are all so brilliant and fun, and we've all forged some great alliances. Phil Chinn, another PILF grant recipient, also works at PDS, and we both work in the "Hot Room" (because it's always so hot in our office). The Hot Room has really become a family, and we bring each other donuts, we watch inspirational movie scenes, and we eat lunch together. My coworkers have really made this experience worthwhile and I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store.