First day of work was a pretty sharp learning curve. Since we were dealing with real cases right off, there wasn’t any “practice” time beforehand. Working for the Public Defender’s Office at Juvenile Court, our job is basically to defend youths accused to various crimes. Undoubtedly some are innocent and some are most definitely not. But it’s never that simple as there are a variety of reasons for which a child may end up breaking the law, and jail time isn’t always the best response. Working with the District Attorney and the Judge, our role is not only to defend them in court, but also to help their families and ascertain the best punishment for those who are found guilty.

The first thing that surprised me was just how much of each case was decided before the Judge hears a word. Working with the D.A. plea agreements are commonly drafted, as well as having various charges dismissed outright. This takes a good few hours before court comes into session each day, and much of the work is done by the time proceedings begin.

Things were a little emotionally charged during the final case which was being run by one of Steve’s student attorneys (he teaches a law class at LSU – Louisiana State University), Wyndi. The kid’s mother, breaking down in court, was in the middle of a serious meltdown which was clearly evident. In a way it helped for the judge and D.A. to see what we (and the child) were dealing with, and Wyndi handled the mother’s rather personal attack very professionally.

My favourites case today was the bunch of guys from Mamou who came down to Baton Rouge for a football game. Having gotten drunk, they managed to start a fight with themselves and our defendent was charged with disturbing the peace. Now, this case is clearly not going anywhere since the alleged “victim” was not only a friend of his, but also the guy who drove him and illegally supplied him with alcohol underage! Things got even more amusing when we asked him what game they’d come to see. Turns out he doesn’t actually know since they never got that far and he was too drunk to remember…