2012 PFIG Recipient Anya Havriliak
College of Arts & Sciences
Political Philosophy, Policy & Law Major
2013 Graduation Year
Internship: US Attorney's Office
Notes on the first week
Working at the US Attorney's Office in Washington, DC has been one of the most interesting and enlightening experiences – and it has only been a week! Our introduction to the work our office does began Monday with a daylong orientation for all interns to the various sections of the office. We learned about the special nature of our office, namely that the USAO of DC is responsible for both local and federal prosecution. That special dual responsibility of the office accounts for its size; 300 attorneys and 300 support staff make this the largest US Attorneys Office in the country. And, as US Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. emphasized in his speech to the interns on Monday, it is also – to those who work there – the best.
On Tuesday, I was introduced to all of the attorneys in my section, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and to the goals and responsibilities of that section. Essentially, our section is comprised of two main teams. Asset Forfeiture is responsible for going through the legal procedures necessary to take property that defendants acquired during or as a result of the commission of a crime. Asset Forfeiture attorneys then can suggest which agencies (for example, the Metropolitan Police Department or the Drug Enforcement Agency) get the property. This process is important because, as several of the attorneys explained to me and my fellow intern, taking away cash, cars and other "toys" from the defendants seems to be the best way to deter defendants who otherwise are not bothered by the prospect of jail time. The other division of our section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting money laundering cases and other financial crimes that are not handled by the Fraud Section.
My role as an intern is, most basically, to help any attorneys and paralegals in my section with whatever long-term or urgent projects they have. My jobs this past week have ranged from listening to jail calls and creating transcripts to drafting an asset forfeiture memo that US Attorney Machen himself will read. Intermittently, I have been encouraged to head over to court and "court watch" as much as possible, so long as I complete my projects on time and to the best of my ability. For example, I got the opportunity to watch a very interesting hearing about the admissibility of evidence in an upcoming homicide trial. There should be a great deal more for me to watch in the next nine weeks, and I am looking forward to getting over to court as much as possible.
One of my main goals this summer would be to become very familiar with the processes of the Asset Forfeiture Section, since the statutes and legal procedures that the section deals with daily are very complex and intricate. The more familiar I am with the technical aspects of the section, the better I can assist the attorneys and paralegals. Another major goal of mine is to continue to ask as many questions as possible, and to not give up a single opportunity to learn something new from one of the experienced attorneys or paralegals. One way I can learn as much as possible is to go over to court often, for as many different types of hearings and trials as possible. Since the office handles so many different types of cases, and since the attorneys in my section have ties to cases in other sections, like Narcotics and Fraud, I should have many opportunities to learn a lot by watching these very talented attorneys in the courtroom during trials and hearings.
The last five weeks have been some of the most interesting, informative and enlightening weeks of my college career. My strongest reaction to working at the DC US Attorney’s Office is that I love coming to work in the morning, and that I enjoy nearly every minute I’m there and nearly every assignment I’m given. And my assignments really are interesting. Some of my projects are more straightforward; for example, often I am asked to photocopy and redact documents for the prosecutors to send to defense attorneys as part of the discovery process. In other cases, my projects are more detail-oriented and complex; for example this past week I was asked to go over the asset forfeiture procedure from another jurisdiction and suggest to the prosecutor which documents we ought to send to the judge here in DC. I also got to draft some of those motions and orders, a job generally reserved for the law student interns. And some of my projects are just plain fun – like watching videos of SWAT operations. Suffice it to say that I am learning a great deal about the procedures and day-to-day activities of prosecutors in my office through the projects I am given.
I have been learning a lot from the attorneys and paralegals, as well. I mentioned in my last journal entry that I planned to get over and "court watch" as much as possible. I love getting a chance to see the attorneys from my office in action. So far I have seen openings and some witness examinations in a murder trial, openings and closings in a RICO conspiracy case, and several sentencings in different types of cases. Though the sentencings are, perhaps, the least interesting from a courtroom drama perspective, I think as an intern I have learned the most about the job of a prosecutor from those hearings. On one hand, there is a sense of accomplishment when someone the prosecutors worked very hard to get a conviction on is before a judge and about to be sent to prison. In fact, one of the attorneys told me that sentencings are the moments of her job that make all the hard work and headaches associated with the court system worth it. On the other hand, sentencings are very sobering moments. Victims and their families are allowed to speak about their loss, as is the defendant. Hearing what all these parties have to say and seeing how many people are affected by the actions of just one person really puts things in perspective. Indeed, at the end of the day, even if prosecutors "win" their case, at least someone lost something very dear for the case to get to that point.
The last few weeks have confirmed for me that I do want to be a prosecutor. I love that these attorneys work together in teams, and that a system of younger attorneys learning from more experienced ones is relied upon for both training and team-building purposes. Also, these attorneys work with puzzles on a day-to-day basis. Cases are not served up to them by law enforcement on a silver platter; attorneys must go through piles and piles of data and witness statements to come up with the truth at the heart of many different stories. Their jobs are exciting, challenging and rewarding. They work hard for much less pay than their peers at law firms, but all the attorneys so far say that, to them, the lifestyle is worth it. They care about their communities and about one another. I look forward to one day following in their footsteps. As for what I would like to learn in the second half of my internship, I would like to do a bit more digging into what opportunities exist at other agencies like the Secret Service and the FBI. Many of the attorneys have done work at those other agencies, and I would like to continue to ask them about their experiences to determine where else my desire to be a prosecutor could lead me.
What an amazing experience these past ten weeks have been. As I keep telling friends and family, I knew my internship as the DC US Attorney’s Office would be interesting and informative, but I had no idea it would be life-changing. Over these two-and-a-half months, I’ve been offered more than a glimpse into the life of a federal prosecutor. In that time I’ve seen these adults, at various stages in their prosecutorial careers, at high points and at low points. I’ve heard their stories of success and of failure, of pride and of frustration. Amazingly, everything about the job, good and bad, has only made me want to get to law school as quickly as possible, to get the ball rolling on my own prosecutorial career. I saw in these folks what I wanted to see in myself someday. As my boss put it on my last day at the office, I had "found my people."
I mentioned in my last few journals that I had two very specific goals: 1. to get to "court watch" as much as possible, and 2. to ask my supervisors as many questions as possible. I believe I succeeded on both fronts. As far as court watching, I was able to see trials from at least four different sections of the office at various stages in their life cycles. From questioning expert witnesses to presenting closing statements to the jury, the attorneys, each with their own styles and strengths, were always interesting to watch. I made a point of asking these attorneys how they felt in the courtroom, and how, over the years, they had acclimated themselves to the spotlight of a trial. More than once I heard the advice, "Figure out who you are and be true to it. Juries don’t like fakers." That advice struck me as useful, not only in the context of litigation, but in any career path or academic endeavor.
The more time I spent at the crossroads of the Asset Forfeiture and Violent Crimes/Narcotics sections, the more I learned about the specifics of those two realms of criminal litigation. On the asset forfeiture side, by the end of the ten weeks I came to understand and be comfortable with the more complex aspects of the forfeiture process. In turn, the paralegals and attorneys came to trust my understanding, handing me projects with little to no explanation of what was expected. Their trust was intimidating, but also exciting. I felt that I had come a long way from my first day, back when I didn’t even know what "Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering" meant. I also got a chance to learn a great deal about DC’s drug culture, its history, and some of the nitty-gritty details of drug use and abuse generally. After lectures, presentations, and even a ride-along with the Narcotics and Special Investigations Division of the Metropolitan Police Department, a great deal of my questions were answered about illegal drugs, how they impact communities and how they tie into the violence a community experiences. These answers only strengthened my resolve to someday work to stop drug-related violence in my community as a prosecutor.
I know I will look back on this summer internship as ten weeks of intense growth and personal development. I learned how to thrive in an office environment and survive a 9-5 workday. I became comfortable taking on difficult tasks and asking questions of superiors when a task was not clear. I developed lasting relationships with attorneys and paralegals in my office, all of whom I’m sure I will come to rely on as I take off into the real working world. And I developed a sincere passion for protecting and improving my community through criminal prosecution, a passion I am certain will fulfill me later on in life. I appreciate the faith the Parents Committee Internship Grant board put in me, and I am very grateful for their support of me this summer. It was an experience I will never forget.