Brown County District Attorney
The District Attorney’s Office “provides a range of services including: prosecution, investigation, extradition, victim/witness services, education/advice, and representation of county or state agencies in various proceedings. Regarding prosecution, the Office prosecutes adult criminal violations; non criminal violations of the county code; juvenile delinquency matters; all criminal traffic offenses and non-criminal traffic citations issued by the State Patrol or Brown County Sheriff” (Brown County Government 2015). Orvill Snyder said that an attorney’s hardest task is the stress and time consumption of each case (as would be expected, correct?), but I was more than excited to see the behind the scenes (1951, 170).
There is only one District Attorney in Brown County, David Lasse, although he has two Deputy District Attorneys and 14 other Assistant District Attorneys (http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/How%20Many%20Cases.pdf).
While looking into different options to find a way to ‘get my feet wet’ into the career that I’m looking to go into, I almost did not know where to start. I knew a lot of law firms required you to be at least a first year law student to even step foot into their firm. I was working at my waitress job at a private golf course, when someone told me that they knew the District Attorney up in Brown County (http://www.co.brown.wi.us/departments/?department=34be8c6dea5) was looking for interns. Immediately I got his contact information, and he told me he would keep in touch.
After going in for my interview, with District Attorney David Lasse, he told me that they had an unpaid position for me, and I eagerly accepted the position! I was to start the next week and received a set of keys and signed paperwork for a background check.
When I first started, I first learned how to use the software Protect, which is what keeps and holds all of our accounts and files on anyone that has gone through our system, whether that be as a defendant, a victim, or a witness. Throughout my first few days there, I was updating paperwork on the computer, and reviewing criminal complaints to make sure that they were free from errors and had correct grammar and spelling.
After about a week, I was asked if I wanted to move up to the file clerk position and actually get paid for my work with the attorneys. I immediately said yes, and got my new job description. I was then in charge of making sure files got over to court on time and were ready to go when they appeared in court. I made sure that criminal complaints were completed and sent them over to the jail when I knew that the would be up for lock ups in court that day. If a file was missing, it was my job to track it down and to find the attorney or legal assistant that held that file.
Another aspect of my job was delivering paperwork and files from the District Attorney’s Office to court and making sure that court security had writs and orders to produce that they needed. They sent us back notices of when they were to appear in court.
I also sat in court very frequently, although, due to privacy issues, I was not able to get a picture of that. This was definitely my favorite part and by the end I had attorneys that would ask me what I thought and why I thought that so it was nice to get tested on what I knew. While I was there, I had lunch numerous times with two of the law interns that helped me study for my LSAT coming up in June.
In the beginning of May, per the sorority, I had to volunteer at an event called ‘Walk a Mile’ (walkamileinhershoes.org). It’s been said that you can’t fully understand a person’s experience until you walk a mile in their shoes. This event does just that. It’s not easy, and “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® asks men to literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes…but it’s fun and it gets the community to talk about something that’s really difficult to talk about: gender relations and men’s sexualized violence against women” (Baird 2015). While I had always known that the District Attorney’s Office was also very much so into the avocation of sexual assault, especially through the Victim/Witness program, I was more than excited to see a large number of the attorney’s walk in the mile.
I connected my internship extremely closely with my Criminology course taught by Andrew Austin. It was interesting to look at the ways that we define crime and what we do about it. It was awesome being able to work closely with crime, while defining it and looking at it extremely closely in class.
In my Senior Seminar for the year, we talked about differences and biases of rape and gender. Alexis Robinson found that the same kind of discrimination happens in the courtroom. She said, “thirty years ago, mock juror research using a high school sample uncovered that Black male defense attorneys’ clients receive guilty verdicts more frequently than the clients of White male defense attorneys” (2011). I found that startling. Granted it was 30 years ago, it’s hard to wonder if that still stands true today. (http://www.thejuryexpert.com/2011/05/the-effects-of-race-and-gender-of-attorneys-on-trial-outcomes/)
I also looked at the gender side of this. Alexis Robinson also pointed out, in her extremely interesting article, “a judge’s gender and race, however, do not consistently affect case outcomes. Case type can matter. In 367 federal race discrimination cases, no differences in decisions occurred based on the gender of the judicial panels” (2011). Huffman (1995) also “ﬁnds the concentration of women in predominantly female occupations to be a strong predictor of women’s authority deﬁcit, even after making adjustments for worker characteristics.” When looking at the gender gap in the authority of the workplace, some believe that if women have more representation in an occupation, there will be more competition over the authority positions (Kraus and Yonay, 2000).
I was also amazed at the type of cases that came through the District Attorney’s Office. I mean, you hear about homicide cases, and the drug cases but you don’t think that happens very often, especially not where you’re living. But it was phenomenal the amount of cases that I read from sexual assault, to homicide, to drugs. It seemed never ending. (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/crime)
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience working so closely with this group of people. I can’t express how thankful and blessed I am to have spent my semester interning with Brown County. They taught me more than I could have every imagined and I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity and internship! After finishing up my internship, it made me absolutely certain that I’m going after the correct career choice. Sitting in the courtroom, made me realize that this is what side of the table I want to be on. I realized this mostly after working over 140 hours with them, and not one hour felt like actual work, even though I was getting paid. I was always a little hesitant about what I wanted to practice, and if i wanted to prosecute or defend, but I can be certain I’m headed in the right direction now!
Braid, Frank. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Last Modified: 2015. walkamileinhershoes.org
Brown County. Last Modified: 2015. http://www.co.brown.wi.us/
Huffman, M. (1995). Organizations, internal labor market policies, and gender inequality in the work place supervisory authority. Sociological Perspectives, 38, 381–397.
Robinson, Alexis. 2011. The Jury Expert: The Art and Science of Litigation Advocacy. http://thejuryexpert.com
Snyder, Orvill. 1951. The District Attorney’s Hardest Task. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 30(2): 167–181.
Kraus, V., Yonay, Y. (2000). The effect of occupational sex composition on the gender gap in work place authority. Social Science Research, 29, 583–605.