Legal Studies Major Reflects on Internship with Public Defender’s Office
Amanda Pappas ’21, a criminal justice and legal studies double major, has been able to apply what she has learned in the classroom by listening to wire taps, serving subpoenas, and interviewing witnesses.
August 5, 2019
By Amanda Pappas ’21
I chose to intern at the Public Defender’s Office of Somerset County, New Jersey, because I have always had an interest in criminal law. I have been able to apply what I have learned in my courses at the University. There has never been a dull moment in the office, which is what I like the most. One day I am listening to wire taps. The next day I am serving subpoenas. And the next I am interviewing a witness to a crime.
On my first day, I visited the scene of a car arson that happened a year ago. None of the neighbors witnessed the crime, which made it difficult to prove that our client did not commit the crime. I was able to pinpoint a small security camera at the top of the street that captured the perpetrator, who was not our client.
I knew of this type of security camera because we discussed it in my “Principles of Criminal Investigations” class. It was an exciting and unique feeling to be able to apply what I have learned, and it made me further realize how exemplary the University’s criminal justice program is.
Working in the office can be tough, however. For example, during my second week on the job, we received a case that I became attached to. I truly believed the defendant was innocent because of all of the evidence that was presented. I felt terrible because our client has been in prison for about a year now awaiting trial, due to the relatively recent New Jersey bail reform. My coworkers told me that some cases will stick with you for the rest of your life, but it is a part of the job and you learn to try to not let it bother you.
"I will definitely consider pursuing a career in the public defender’s office because I believe it has a lot to offer."Amanda Pappas ’21
Before starting this internship, I did not think I wanted to be a public defender. I thought I wanted to go into the private sector of the law doing defense work. However, after talking to some of the lawyers, I have started to change my mind.
The public defender’s office seems to be a great place to work if you are interested in criminal defense law. It is an exciting, fast-paced, and mentally challenging job. I will definitely consider pursuing a career in the public defender’s office because I believe it has a lot to offer.
The Bergami Summer Internship Program is funded through the generosity of Board of Governors member – and former Board Chair – Sam Bergami ’85 EMBA, ’02 Hon. and his wife, Lois, and the Division of Student Affairs.