By Christina M. Rich
Once a week, third-year law student Christina Rich is on duty at the Boston Juvenile Court and represents children who have just been arrested and charged with a delinquency offense. This is a description of a typical morning at court:
9 a.m. I arrive at Boston Juvenile Court with my folders and notebook all ready. I check into probation for any new arrests and there are none. So I make my way up to the fourth floor of the courthouse, courtroom 8. Relaxing a little now that I know I have some time to settle in. My colleagues work on their cases while waiting for their clients to show up.
10:15 a.m. Court is in full swing. Cases being called left and right; people going in and people coming out of the court room. I am still waiting for new arrests, sipping my coffee.
10:20 a.m. The clerk comes to me and says she’s got one on a default warrant. I take a look at the name and go outside to find him. He is easy to spot, a tall lanky kid, looking around for someone to give him a sign of what to do.
“Hello, my name is Christina, I’m going to be your attorney today.”
I give him a run-down of what information I need from him very quickly, because the clerk doesn’t wait long to call cases.
Do you know why you are here?
Do you have another attorney?
Are you aware you defaulted on your first appearance last week?
With those preliminary questions out of the way, I find out more about him:
How old are you?
Where do you go to school?
Is your Mom here with you?
Do you have any prior arrests?
Do you play sports?
What do you like to do for fun? I have to move on.
10:27 a.m. I talk to my client’s Mom to see what she can tell me about her son and how he’s doing at home. Anything I can relay to the judge to help in deciding how to handle this case.
10:29 a.m. I visit the probation officer to see if my client has any prior arrests. None. The boy told me the truth. I ask if the officer knows any more about my client, anything that could help me remove the warrant and put the case off for further arraignment. I learn that he has a Child Requiring Assistance case open for truancy. He hasn’t been to school in two months.
10:31 a.m. I wait to talk to the Assistant District Attorney about my client. I give her a one-minute brief: no prior arrests, his age, where he goes to school, that he plays on a sports team, his behavior at home. I ask if she’ll agree to put the case off for further arraignment. The ADA starts asking another question, but she is interrupted when the case is called by the court clerk.
10:35 a.m. “Good morning your Honor, Christina Rich, 3.03 Certified with Suffolk Juvenile Defenders.” The judge asks the Assistant District Attorney whether the Commonwealth is going to arraign my client. The ADA asks to be heard at sidebar. The ADA and I go to sidebar to conference with the Judge. I ask to put off the case for further arraignment, describing everything I know about my client and making an argument that this is the appropriate outcome in this case.
The Judge asks the ADA again, is the Commonwealth prepared to arraign my client?
She answers, “No, your Honor, this case is being put off for further arraignment with conditions of release.”
10:50 a.m. I take a deep breath and get ready to do it all over again.
Christina Rich is a third-year law student in the Suffolk University Law School’s Juvenile Defenders Clinical Program. She also is Editor in Chief of the Bearing Witness Journal on Law and Social Responsibility. For more information on Suffolk Law’s clinical programs, visit http://www.suffolk.edu/law/clinics.