2009 PFIG Recipient Robby Panos

Career Administrator

Robby Panos
College of Arts & Sciences
Anthropology Major
2011 Graduation Year

Internship: Heritage Foundation - Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

Notes on the first week

I have now finished my first week working in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation and am excited for the opportunities this summer will offer. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative public policy research institute, or think tank, based in Washington, D.C. In the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies I have been assigned to a Senior Legal Fellow who I will be aiding on a variety of research projects this summer. I am looking forward to gaining an insider’s view of Washington , D.C. and learn about our nation’s legislative and judicial system. I also hope to improve my research abilities and gain valuable contacts for the future.

This week went by in a blur but I learned a great deal about Washington , D.C. and the role of the Heritage Foundation in public policy. The first three days were largely an orientation period for myself and the other Heritage summer interns. On the first day we were given a welcome speech and had lunch on the building’s rooftop terrace before taking a tour of the nation’s capital, including visits to the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives. I particularly enjoyed seeing the U.S. Constitution as it is the foundation of our country-the source of the very principles the Heritage Foundation works to preserve. In the following days we learned about the history of the Heritage Foundation and how it educates citizens, Congressmen, and other government leaders on key issues. We also heard from numerous speakers, including Ed Feulner, the President of the organization.

In my first full day at the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies I met with the Senior Legal Fellows in the office and even had the opportunity to meet Mr. Edwin Meese III, one of the nation’s leading conservatives and Chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Mr. Meese spent much of his career working alongside former President Ronald Reagan and served as the Attorney General of the United States under Reagan. It was an honor to meet with such a distinguished figure and I look forward to learning from him throughout the summer. On Thursday I also attended a Congressional Testimony in which Andrew Grossman, the Senior Legal Fellow to which I am assigned, testified before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. This, too, was an exciting opportunity as it was the first time I have experienced such an event and because I was able to see the Heritage Foundation’s work in action. On Friday I received my first major project in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and began compiling case information for Mr. Grossman’s next research undertaking. I will continue this work next week and am eager to see the project take shape and possibly influence public policy.

Midway

As I sat at my desk on my first day in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies (CLJS) at the Heritage Foundation a message from Admiral Carey, the founder of the Washington Scholars Fellowship Program with which I am involved, lingered in my head. The other interns and I had just completed our first assignment, a sort of welcoming to the office, in which we were to find a particular document based on a few vague clues. After an hour of scouring the internet I stumbled upon the answer, a 19th century story titled "A Message to Garcia." The moral of the story reminded of a central theme Admiral Carey has emphasized. To quote Admiral Carey, "in the real adult world…performance and deadlines and results and accuracy and communications and accountability are pretty much the only things that will determine whether your life and career are successful." These are characteristics that Admiral Carey, the employees of CLJS, and Edwin Meese III, former U.S. Attorney General and Chairman of CLJS, value. Sitting there at my desk another similarity between these people crossed my mind-they had all built extremely successful careers in Washington, D.C. At this point I knew that if I heeded this advice my summer internship at the Heritage Foundation could be the springboard that launched me into a successful future.

As an intern in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies I was assigned to a Senior Legal Policy Analyst. The areas of expertise to the analyst to who I am assigned, Andrew Grossman, is criminal law, constitutional law, and legal issues related to privacy and technology. My first major project under Andrew regarded State Secrets Privilege, which allows the government to exclude evidence or dismiss a criminal case because the evidence may compromise national security. For this project I compiled over 100 cases in which the State Secrets Privilege was invoked, created a spreadsheet detailing specific information about each case, and organized the court proceedings in binders. My second project, on which I spent the majority of my time, regarded criminal cases in which juveniles were sentenced to life without parole. Andrew and another analyst, Charles Stimson, had been working on a project for over a year that responded to the reports of activist groups that oppose juvenile life without parole. I helped research and compile information for various components of this report, but my greatest contribution was a chart that compares activist descriptions of offenders’ crimes with those from court proceedings. The report, which will be published in the near future, includes this chart as an appendix. For my smaller projects I conducted research, compiled case information, and composed memos. The purpose of these projects was to give Andrew a better understanding of the topics. These topics included the Sunshine in Litigation Act, intellectual property rights, and a biography of former General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Jeffrey A. Rosen. Finally, at the end of last week I began work on a case involving a fisherman charged with violating endangered species statutes.

Some of my other office tasks include picking up opinions from the Supreme Court and inputting data for a website CLJS will be launching shortly. The interns are also responsible for compiling a daily packet of news clippings pertinent to CLJS. While this may seem like a rather mindless task I have found it to be extremely beneficial as it keeps me up on issues that are important to CLJS. In addition, I have attended various lectures and seminars hosted by the Heritage Foundation. The greatest contributions of my internship to my professional development thus far have been improvements in my research abilities and an understanding of what is expected in a professional environment. The research I have done has given me a familiarity with many research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. More importantly, I have learned how to recognize the question and approach the task at hand. I have also had significant experience with the Bluebook, an important skill if I ever attend law school. As for working in a professional environment, I have learned that nobody will hold your hand through an assignment and that no less is expected of you because of your age or level of experience. In order to be successful you must take it upon yourself and put in the effort.The most exciting experience of my internship at the Heritage Foundation has been the opportunity to attend a small lecture by Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia spoke about his belief in an originalist interpretation of the Constitution and the importance of the structure of our government. This event made me realize there are certain experiences you can only have in the nation’s capital.

I look forward to the many opportunities and experiences my internship will bring in the coming weeks.

Final Reflections

The University of Virginia is often referred to as "Mr. Jefferson's University." Thomas Jefferson was a man of many words and, as every UVA student knows, had something to say about pretty much everything. After two years at UVA I think I have heard almost every word he uttered, whether as a motivational quote on the walls of the AFC or an ethical reminder scripted across a final exam. As my internship draws to an end, one of my favorite Thomas Jefferson quotes sticks out: "Pride costs more than hunger, thirst and cold." While this quote may seem off topic, I find it to be an important lesson from the "real world". You must be proud to have your name on an assignment. You must be proud of your reputation and what others think of you. You must be proud of the values for which you stand. In a city like Washington, D.C., where everyone is looking to make a name for themselves, these are important lessons to remember.

Since the midway point of my internship I was involved with three larger projects and number of smaller tasks. The project with which I worked the most was a case study on the overcriminalization of endangered species statutes. Overcriminalization refers to the growing trend in the United States to punish trivial conduct and minor violations of the law as criminal acts. For this case we focused on two incidents in particular, both of which involve the alleged "taking" of whales off the coast of Massachusetts. I also worked on a side project for another lawyer in the office, Cully Stimson. A defense attorney who has represented many young killers in juvenile life without parole cases has repeatedly made false and contradictory statements in the courtroom. Cully observed the inconsistencies of his statements and plans on filing a complaint against him. In my final weeks at the Heritage Foundation I spent the majority of my time helping to prepare for a Congressional hearing in which Kathy Norris and Krister Evertson testified. Kathy's husband, George, and Krister were victims of overcriminalization. I also continued to work on a number of smaller projects which involved conducting research, compiling case information, and composing memos. These projects gave the legal analyst to who I was assigned a general understanding of topics.

One of the most rewarding experiences I had this summer was attending the Congressional hearing in which Kathy Norris and Krister Everstson testified. The event was titled the "Over-criminalization of Conduct and Over-Federalization of Criminal Law" and was held before the U.S. House of Representatives Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee. Their testimonies touched the members of the subcommittee and the audience and Mr. Evertson brought many in the room to tears as he spoke of how his whole life was turned upside down. It felt great knowing my work helped bring their stories to life and to the attention of Congress. Their testimonies will hopefully bring about changes in the law to keep others safe from the same injustices.

Aside from Justice Scalia, who I mentioned in a previous post, the most influential figure I met in my internship was former Attorney General Edwin Meese III. Weeks before I stepped foot into the Heritage Foundation my first intern assignment arrived in the mail – a copy of To Preserve and Protect: the Life of Edwin Meese III. As I read the book I was astounded to learn of the scope and importance of Mr. Meese's contributions to the Reagan administration as Attorney General and one of his most trusted aides. To Preserve and Protect spoke honestly of Mr. Meese and did not omit the fact that many left-winged opponents disliked him. From these depictions and the significance of his position as Attorney General I formed the image of a hard-lined politician who would waste little time with interns. This was not the case, however. Mr. Meese had a kind, grandfatherly-like manner that made my fellow interns and I feel welcome and respected. Despite a lifetime of prestigious accomplishments and a hectic schedule he took the time to speak to the interns about his experiences with Ronald Reagan and was always ready with a good-morning greeting. On one occasion I had the opportunity to drive Mr. Meese to a meeting and was struck not just by his breadth of political knowledge, but by his genuine interest in my background and personal life. Mr. Meese's encouraging attitude and knowledge of judicial policy were reflected throughout the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

The most important contact I made this summer in regards to my career goals was an FBI Special Agent who was a guest speaker at two events I attended with the Washington Scholars Fellowship Program. I sat down with him a few weeks ago over coffee to discuss the FBI in further detail. I have become very interested in pursuing the FBI as a career and plan on applying to the FBI Honors Internship Program for the summer of 2010. In addition to these contacts I have expanded my network by getting to know the Senior Legal Policy Analysts in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, interns at the Heritage Foundation, and members of the Washington Scholars Fellowship Program.

I thank the UVA Parents Fund and UVA University Career Center for helping to make this internship possible. I know the experiences I had this summer will put me on the path towards a successful career.