For What Courts Can I Extern?
The first step towards obtaining a judicial externship is deciding the type of externship in which you are interested. The decision is a function of numerous variables. Choices must be made between the state and federal systems; positions in trial, appellate or specialized courts; and geographic location. What follows is some general information as to the types of externships that are available. This information is meant to provide and introduction to the positions available and can be supplemented by further research into particular areas of interest. For a current list of judges, click here.
Court of Appeals
The Ninth Circuit in which we are located covers the largest geographic territory and is considered to be one of the most diverse courts of appeal in terms of issues presented to the judges. AS with all the various categories described here, the actual responsibilities of the extern vary from chambers to chambers. However, the following are some of the responsibilities you may expect:
· A typical appellate extern will spend his or her time preparing the judge for oral argument
· The extern will work with the judge and clerks in researching issues presented to the court and preparing the written disposition of a case.
· Unlike trial-level externships, the appellate extern will not be exposed to trial court practice and procedure; however, the appellate extern gains an invaluable view of how cases move from the trial through the appellate process.
· Circuit judges hear oral argument for one week of the month, nine months per year. Additionally, oral argument typically only takes place in Pasadena, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, and externs may not have the opportunity to observe the oral argument for cases on which they worked. However, an appellate externship offers students an intensive opportunity to improve legal research, writing and reasoning skills.
· Opinions frequently address the broader implications of the issues raise as part of the process of shaping the developing law as contrasted with district court cases which are more likely to address the law as applied to the specific facts of the case before it.
Ninth Circuit judges usually dnotconsider externs for part-time positions. As a general rule, Circuit externships are only available for students willing to extern full-time.
A district court externship allows broad exposure to litigation in federal district courts. Again, responsibilities will vary from judge to judge; however, a District Court extern will generally get exposed to all phases of federal practice and procedure.
Externs will work with the judge and clerks to prepare bench memoranda, assist with pretrial, trial and post-trial motions, and will research issues related to preparation of the final dispositions.
A district court externship is an unparalleled opportunity to witness the judicial decision-making process from the court’s perspective. Those students who are inclined to litigate often prefer it.
Externs will gain broad exposure to a variety of litigation strategies and advocacy skills and will develop a sense of effective lawyering by reviewing papers submitted to the court, observing oral argument and seeing what techniques are favored and disfavored by the judge.
Even those students who are interested in other practice areas can benefit by externing in the district court. By learning about how judges reach decisions, non-litigators gain invaluable insight into how to anticipate the way in which a court will view matters which lead to litigation and thus protect their clients’ interests as they work through various aspects of the “deal.”
Most district court judges preferthat students work full-time. In the recent past, however, a small number of judges have accepted part-time externs.
Every judicial district has a bankruptcy court to which it may refer bankruptcy cases and proceedings.
- Although bankruptcy is a specialize area, the bankruptcy courts are increasingly being asked to handle complex, but very interesting, matters relating to the ongoing operations of businesses seeking protection of the bankruptcy courts. Thus, for operations of businesses seeking protection of the bankruptcy courts. Thus, for example, bankruptcy judges have been required to make important decisions related to the settlement of complex litigations claims and union-management issues.
- Because of the increase breadth of bankruptcy court proceedings, a bankruptcy court externship can be of great interest and value, even to those who do not anticipate that they will practice in this area.
- Students who anticipate a practice in virtually any are that relates to the interest of business, real estate or commercial law can learn a great deal; moreover, bankruptcy courts see a tremendous amount of oral argument and offer the chance to see a broad range of advocacy styles.
U.S. Magistrate Judges
Under the Magistrate Act, each district court may appoint full and part-time magistrates. Magistrates assist district judges in the conduct of civil and criminal pretrial or discovery proceedings. The duties of a magistrate include, among other things:
· Administering oaths on criminal complaints;
· Issuing search and arrest warrants;
· Conducting preliminary hearings in criminal cases;
· Reviewing habeas corpus petitions;
· Trying persons accused of misdemeanors when authorized by the district court to do so.
· Pro se civil rights claims;
· Social security;
· Civil discovery matters.
Often a district judge will issue a standing order for all pretrial civil discovery motions in a particular case to be heard by a magistrate. Thus, externs would have the opportunity to observe and participate in resolving discovery disputes – the arena in which most civil litigation settles and thereby is critically important to understand.
Court of Appeal
Like an externship for the Ninth Circuit, students externing for a state appellate justice have an opportunity to intensively work on their research, writing and reasoning skills. Unlike a Ninth Circuit externship, however, students will be more likely to observe at least some oral argument since it occurs more frequently.