Throughout the internship, I learned about different aspects of being a lawyer and explored the importance of legal writing as a central part of the profession. As a legal intern, I wrote an Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA) briefing to help support my client.
Rebecca Bloch of The Law Office of Rebecca Bloch walked me through how to write a proper briefing in legal formatting and include all relevant content.
As part of an IRAA briefing, I sifted through legal documents, exhibits, and case precedent. I compiled pertinent information to put into a comprehensive briefing containing reasoned arguments about why my client deserved a sentence reduction under § D.C. Code 24-403.03.
Oral Argument Preparation
The Basics of Oral Argumentation
To help the legal team prepare their IRAA Motion, I had to create a compelling argument on various sections of the briefing, including the client’s history, community involvement, rehabilitation, and reentry plan, but also critically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in terms of their effectiveness in a courtroom setting and their impact on a judge.
I learned about oral arguments from real lawyers and was able to work with my peers to develop strong legal strategies.
How We Prepared Our Oral Argument
At the end of the internship, I had the opportunity to present my argument to the legal team and my peers, which included my recommendations to strengthen the case.
I presented different facts of the case and the mitigating factors that could influence the outcome of the IRAA motion and resentencing request. This part was crucial in demonstrating our problem-solving skills and contributed meaningfully to the legal strategy.
This is important because now the legal team has a variety of different perspectives to include in the briefing and has recommendations for the client to improve their standing in court.
My Congressional Advocacy
Throughout the internship, I developed skills to effectively advocate on behalf of my client to congressional officials. To prepare for my meetings, I developed informative briefing materials with my team, which focused on improving the criminal legal system.
On Capitol Hill, we highlighted an issue within the criminal legal system to congressional representatives and advocated for possible solutions to the harrowing issues present throughout the system. My team and I worked to ensure we had facts, statistics, and compelling stories to share with our representatives. After our meeting, we followed up with our representatives to call for further action.
- Rebecca Bloch
- Momolou Stewart
- Second Look
- Free Minds
- Prison & Justice Initative
Rebecca Bloch is the managing attorney for the Law Office of Rebecca Bloch.
Ms. Bloch has worked in the legal field since 2007 as a public defender in Colorado and the District of Columbia. Ms. Bloch has defended the rights of individuals accused of virtually every type of crime, from petty offenses to the most serious of felonies.
Currently, Ms. Bloch is drafting briefs on behalf of individuals serving prison sentences who are seeking IRAA release due to outstanding behavior, rehabilitation, and other factors under D.C. Code § 24-403.03.
Momolu Stewart, a returning citizen who filed a successful IRAA motion, is an advocate for the use of IRAA. Mr. Stewart shared his emotional story about his return to society from a juvenile life sentence with me and my peers.
Mr. Stewart described his difficult experience of being behind bars for 23 years. He spent those years studying, mentoring others, and trying to improve himself as best he could. He showed us his dedication to helping others, music, and art during his incarceration and reentry, and his rehabilitation was featured in The Justice Project, a documentary highlighting injustice and mass incarceration with Kim Kardashian.
Through Mr. Stewart’s story, I saw the importance of reevaluating long prison sentences given to people at a young age and better understood the work that I am doing for the client.
Mr. James Zeigler, the founder and executive director of the Second Look Project, has dedicated his work to helping provide representation for those eligible for resentencing under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act.
Mr. Zeigler walked me and my fellow interns through the history of sentencing reduction in the District of Columbia and gave advice to me regarding the writing process of IRAA motions.
I learned more about the process of writing an IRAA motion and had the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions regarding the different parts of the IRAA statute in DC to write a comprehensive briefing.
Janet Zwick, the Youth Education Outreach Manager at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a DC-based nonprofit that uses literature and creative writing to build community with incarcerated youth and adults, and Poet Ambassadors who work with incarcerated citizens, spoke with us about how Free Minds has an impact on currently incarceration and returning citizens.
I learned about the importance of support systems during the IRAA process and how Free Minds uses writing and book clubs as networks for people during and after incarceration.
Ms. Zwick and the Poet Ambassadors have created creative solutions to the issues that have ramifications of them and their communities which taught me to seek remedies for problems I identify.
Marc Howard is the founding director of the Prison and Justice Initiative at Georgetown University. Founded in 2016, the Prison and Justice Initiative has four programs that tackle criminal legal reform by focusing on incarceration and recidivism. Momolou Stewart was a part of one of these programs.
I learned about Dr. Howard’s passion for criminal legal reform and what inspired his work. Dr. Howard spoke with the group about the prison industrial complex and the impact private prisons have on mass incarceration.
I also learned that he truly believes that my generation is going to change the criminal legal system for the better.