2019 Summer Intern Reflection – Margaret Studdard

This summer I’ve learned an overwhelming amount about the basics of criminal defense, which was what I expected going into the internship. However, I also learned about really surprising aspects of the system in Georgia like the use of license suspensions to punish FTAs and child support debt. It has been eye opening to really see in intimate detail how the criminal justice system can trap individuals in a cycle and make it nearly impossible for them to succeed in breaking free of that cycle. The intricacies too have surprised me, like learning that only a medical examiner can perform autopsies and other counties in Georgia have to send up to GBI to have autopsies performed. I have had many questions answered this summer that I didn’t even know I had!

 

I have also been surprised to see how much the community, current and former clients, and potential clients alike share this deep enthusiasm and gratitude for GJP’s work. When we went to the MRF graduation last week, I was stunned by the cheers and clapping GJP received from the returning citizens. It really reflects this perception, which I believe is wholly accurate, that GJP is more than just another option for a Public Defender. We build these relationships with clients and truly care about them, and it is reflected in the way they feel about us. Even when I go to jail to interview potential clients, I’ve been thanked for just listening to their stories regardless of whether we take their case. Before this summer I had a theoretical sense of what it can mean to represent someone when all they’ve faced is barriers, but it has been amazing to experience that myself.

 

I will definitely remember all of the bonding from this summer, whether it was pastries with Doug and the other interns in Montgomery or tie-dying out in the parking lot. Callen has been truly incredible too, and I want to give her a shout out! She had fielded questions all summer from the most basic to seriously complex all with a smile on her face. I hope she stays on for a while because every crew of interns should get to laugh with her during their summer! This group has been an inspiring and wonderfully funny group this summer, and I look forward to being friends with them even after our internships end. I worried about whether or not I’d connect with my fellow interns, but it was almost immediate.

 

My favorite parts this summer were doing intake interviews at jail, the medical examiner’s office, and the Montgomery trip. We’ve had such interesting field trips, and it has helped me feel a lot more prepared to do criminal trial work after seeing some of the components in person.