This summer, I interned with Juvenile Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of youth on a national scale. Juvenile Law Center has served as counsel and amicus curiae in several pivotal U.S. Supreme Court cases, including Roper v. Simmons, which abolished the death penalty for youth; Graham v. Florida, which banned juvenile life without parole in non-homicide cases; J.D.B. v. North Carolina, which found youth to be a relevant factor in determining if a person is subject to a Miranda warning; Miller v. Alabama, which ended mandatory juvenile life without parole in homicide cases; and Montgomery v. Louisiana, which established the retroactivity of Miller. It was also instrumental in advocating for victims of the Luzerne County “kids-for-cash” judicial scandal.
Throughout the summer, I worked on assignments related to the litigation of two class action lawsuits. The first was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of youth who attended a high-profile reformatory school in Pennsylvania, alleging that the constitutional rights of these youth were violated when they were subject to physical violence, psychological abuse, and deprivation of education. As part of my work, I shadowed a team of attorneys while they prepared a plaintiff for deposition. I observed strategy sessions, client meetings, and the deposition itself, gaining firsthand knowledge of how effective counsel handles the development of a key aspect of litigation.
The second case I worked on was filed in the Middle District of Florida on behalf of Florida individuals who were sentenced as youth to life in prison with the possibility of parole but who have not been given a constitutionally required meaningful opportunity for release. I examined issues raised by opposing counsel in a motion to quash, which allowed me to practice time-sensitive research and oral presentation of my work.
In addition to litigation projects, I participated in policy work by attending weekly meetings with Care Not Control, a coalition of Pennsylvania organizations against youth incarceration. I also assisted with Juvenile Law Center’s national youth transfer research by finding and synthesizing relevant case law, statutory schemes, legislative history, and data on youth transfer.
Throughout the internship, I was mentored by experienced and generous professionals. I met weekly with my supervisor, who answered questions and provided feedback, shared insights from his professional experience, and offered advice on my future career path. I connected with staff through intimate coffee talks, in which interns learned about the operations of each department within the organization. I also connected with other interns and staff through social events around Philadelphia, an office open-door policy, and regular informal lunches.
My first two semesters with University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School were invaluable in preparing me for my work with Juvenile Law Center. Civil Procedure with Andrea Wang, Assistant Professor of Law, set the groundwork for my understanding of the intricacies on which many of the legal questions I worked on hinged.
The materials around abolition and the impacts of system-involvement on youth for courses taught by Shaun Ossei-Owusu, Presidential Professor of Law, and Dorothy Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, framed my appreciation of Juvenile Law Center’s values.
The Legal Practice Skills course taught by Jessica Simon, Associate Director of Legal Practice Skills, was essential in preparing me to conduct thorough research and present my findings succinctly in both oral and written form.
I am grateful to Juvenile Law Center for helping me work toward realizing my goal of being an effective legal advocate for youth. I look forward to continuing to expand the knowledge I gained this summer as I begin an externship with Education Law Center in the Fall.