Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the U.S. and abroad. This dispatch from Andreas Kuersten L’14 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. Kuersten, who is working at Andrews Air Force Base, is from Redding, CA, and hopes to join the United States military as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Working for the JAG Corps is a dream come true
On my first day of work I walked out of my building and saw two F-18 Hornets in tight formation firing off the tarmac. They banked left and disappeared into a cloud, the roar of their engines still reverberating across the sky. Over the weeks I’ve had the chance to watch more jets take off, KC-135 Stratotankers propel over 161 tons upward. I’ve also seen the ebb and flow of the motorcades and helicopters for the President and other officials. I work at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, DC, for the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps). While the glamorous events I have witnessed are not part of my job description, they are a constant reminder of the mission I support and the institution I have the opportunity to be a part of this summer.
My position is in the Civil Litigation division. This group handles all disputes involving the Air Force that take place in civilian courts. These include labor disputes, tort actions, contract litigation, and collateral attacks on the judgments of courts-martial, which is the type of legal action on which I predominantly work. My principal assignment this summer is researching and writing a guidebook for JAG officers to use in litigating habeas corpus cases in federal courts. I will then be tasked with building on this to write a publishable law review article on the topic. There is a sizeable hole in legal scholarship in this area and it’s my job to fill it.
In carrying out my assignments, the research tutorials conducted by the Penn Law library staff and the independent research I have undertaken with the help of professors in writing seminar papers and moot court briefs have prepared me well. In addition, lessons from Professor Roosevelt both inside and outside of the classroom in constitutional law have also been very useful for this constitution-heavy project. Financially, aid from Penn’s Summer Work Study program ensured that I could take this unpaid position. Normally Air Force summer internships are paid, but sequestration took away the funding this year. Penn Law summer funding has been a great help.
Aside from work and staring at planes like a little boy, my supervisors have made sure I get a well-rounded experience. I have shared lunch with a retired general, discussed legal theory with military judges, sat in on an historical oral argument at the nation’s highest military court, cringed watching people get tasered and attacked by guard dogs at security training, worked with OCI (the Air Force version of NCIS), and helped prepare and observed all aspects of courts-martial and administrative separation boards.
Prior to my working for the Air Force, Catherine Mao L’14 was an intern here at Andrews in Summer 2012. The officers are starting to know Penn Law pretty well around here and hopefully we’ve begun a tradition. This position has been a dream come true and I hope to continue as a JAG Corps officer upon graduation.