American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Kayleigh Hartwig is interning at the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLU of Nevada) in Las Vegas. The ACLU of Nevada is the Nevada affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU specializes in defending Civil Liberties and making sure that the constitution is being upheld. The legal environment is unique in that the office receives complaints daily, and time sensitive issues arise frequently. Kayleigh will primarily be working on issues surrounding the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and another issue to be left confidential at this time. Although she is assigned certain topics to concentrate on, each intern for the ACLU of Nevada does their part in assisting with the most current and pressing research, education, legislation, and litigation. Her responsibilities include background research and issue analysis of incoming complaints, meeting with clients, and helping develop the documentation for cases. This internship has been a fulfilling experience for Kayleigh so far because she is able to reach out and help the community she called home before moving to Seattle to attend Seattle University School of Law.
June 05, 2012
Today was the most exciting day yet working for the ACLU of Nevada. The ACLU was granted amicus status in order to speak in favor of the Coroner’s Inquest, a process which helps to evaluate police conduct when an officer uses deadly force, so today was the day we all headed to the Nevada Supreme Court to hear the oral arguments being presented to the justices.
After a morning of light office work, my fellow interns and I had a quick bite to eat near the court house and hurried over to get in the line to enter the building. We quickly learned that once we are attorneys we will be allowed to wait in the attorney line where a flash of your bar card grants you speedy access. But today we waited in the regular line like everyone else. After making our way through security and over to the elevator, we headed straight up to the top floor where we met our office staff and attorneys. We checked in our cell phones at “cell phone check-in” and offered words of encouragement to our staff attorney who would be doing the honors of presenting our arguments.
When it was our turn we rushed in and found a seat. The courtroom was packed; the event had even attracted media attention. The courtroom was much smaller than I imagined and the proceedings were somewhat more casual than I had expected. Things got exciting as the justices asked questions of both parties, and they fired back their responses. When all was said and done we waited for the press to interview the attorneys and made our way back to the office. It really was an exhilarating experience to be on the top floor of the courthouse in the presence of the Nevada Supreme Court. I never imagined myself presenting arguments in the courtroom, but after today, you never know.
June 24, 2012
Today is my first visit to Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center (FMWCC), Las Vegas’s Women’s prison, to interview potential clients. I have prepared for this day in more ways than one. A prison visit consists of many things: clearance to visit, preparation for the interview, careful observance of the prison’s rules, and building up the nerve to enter the unknown. Clearance to visit is a little tricky, the prison prefers attorneys only, and at the very minimum a second year law student. Preparation for the interview is somewhat easier; I know what the important questions will be and am prepared to do a lot of listening. The inmate’s account of the relevant incident is extremely important. To make sure I will be in compliance with the prison’s rules I repeatedly checked the dress code. It is funny because you must be conservatively dressed, yet almost everything you could imagine wearing is on the list of things not to wear. Today I end up wearing a grey sweater and dark grey dress pants.
Pulling up to the prison I can’t help but think of the irony - FMWCC is located on Smiley Road. I wonder which came first, the road, or the prison. As I parked I felt a wave of apprehension. After entering the facility, I met with my supervising attorney, consented to a search, checked in, handed over my ID and keys, and made my way through the metal detector. Next, I was patted down by a prison guard. After passing this test we waited in the waiting area. When it was clear, the bars opened long enough for us to pass through, and promptly closed behind us. Shortly after a guard opened the door to the visiting area, where we met with three inmates, one by one.
In the interest of confidentiality and ongoing work by the ACLU I won’t get into the details of the interviews; however, each inmate was open and happy to share their story. The interviews flowed easily. At one point an interviewee shared that earlier in the week a group of law students had visited the prison. She said one student was visibly terrified and offered the advice that you shouldn’t work with criminals if you are scared of them, which I found humorous.
I never imagined myself visiting a prison or working with inmates on the type of issues that we discussed with them today; however, I am grateful for the experience. All practicing attorneys should know what prison is like whether they are criminal attorneys or not. Also, I am glad to have had the opportunity to participate in interviewing potential clients.