The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office - Domestic Violence Unit
Jonathan Nichols is working for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in the Domestic Violence Unit in downtown Seattle. The DV Unit works to prosecute individuals whose alleged criminal acts have a domestic violence classification as defined under the Revised Code of Washington. Jonathan’s interest in the unit is twofold. First, in his continuous fight for full LGBTQ equality, he would like to see all states treat domestic violence in same-sex relationships the same as any other relationships. Washington does this classification and he can see how this system works. Second, he wants to gain a better understanding of how the criminal justice system can work in a collaborative manner to reach better outcomes. His work responsibilities will include researching and drafting for supervising attorneys, organizing trial materials and evidence, and assisting prosecutors with all aspects of trial. As a tireless advocate for social justice with a passion for oral advocacy, working with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is a great place for him to learn about the anatomy of a trial and how to put the legal research and writing skills from 1L to good use while pursuing his passion.
My summer is off to a great start. My supervisors set a great example of how to be zealous advocates and maintain collegial relationships with opposing counsel. From my first day, I have been impressed with the level of dedication to public service the attorneys bring to work every day.
I was put to work right away when my supervisor asked me to help read through a victim’s Facebook account which was delivered to us in order to find any useful information. I was able to put my Spanish speaking abilities to good use because I translated some conversations and even discovered where to locate a new witness. It was a good feeling to help my supervisor and earn her trust. In fact, she trusted me so much that by the end of my first week she had me researching and drafting memoranda on evidence issues, writing a trial brief, and assisting with a victim interview.
When the case was postponed, I began assisting another attorney on a new trial. Again, I was put to work organizing trial binders and researching criminal procedure issues. Never did I think I would be so thankful to have had a grueling first year of Legal Writing I, but the class is proving to be incredibly valuable. This new case is dealing with kidnapping, rape, and assault. It is complex and the testimony is heartbreaking. My supervisor had me become familiar with so many aspects of this case, and as a result, he is having me sit at counsel table with him for the entire trial. I feel honored when he asks my opinion about certain issues or has me help with evidence during trial.
The best part of my summer to this point has been getting to research and draft a portion of a brief, and when the judge made his ruling on the issue, he used the authority I provided in the brief. Just like my first year of law school, my experience this summer is turning out to be a worthwhile, yet challenging, experience of a lifetime.
I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to work with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office this summer. My ten weeks flew by and I was able to get a real grasp of what is involved in trial advocacy and being an attorney in public service. The dedication that every attorney I encountered was remarkable. I learned a lot about myself during my summer.
First, I would say the biggest lesson learned was that I am not as sensitive as I once thought I was and able to deal with some absolutely heart-breaking cases where citizens in our community, who are so vulnerable, have been victims of truly heinous crimes. My experience was much more than reading sad cases or fact patterns like we do in law school. During my summer, I organized and sorted some disturbing evidence; I helped interview victims and witnesses to these crimes; and, in court, I was also sitting feet away from the person who allegedly committed the awful crime. Reading sad stories in a casebook does not prepare you for the reality of what individuals face when going through a trial, but I was able to learn about this reality during my summer experience. Furthermore, I was able to see that I do want to interact with the players who become names in these cases and represent the public’s interest.
Second, I learned that the courtroom cannot always deliver the solution, but our justice system can help prevent problems from getting worse. This realization has helped me realize that the legal education I am getting at Seattle U cannot be only for the sake of me practicing law one day, but I am even more motivated to use the analytical skills I am learning in school to be an active participant in the discussions that might one day help deliver a solution to some of society’s problems.
Without a PILF grant, I’m not sure how I would have been able to have this incredible experience and pay all my expenses for the summer. I am forever grateful for PILF and the grants the organization offers to students interested in public service.