Introduction to Federal and State Internships

Stetson University College of Law has offered students the opportunity to intern with members of the federal and state judiciary throughout the decade. Stetson's program is one of the largest among American law schools and, we believe, one of the most successful.

The internship program provides students the opportunity to perform, under supervision, several of the tasks performed by professional judicial clerks. These tasks include the review of pleadings, motions, briefs, memoranda, and discovery pertaining to specific case problems; research into issues presented during the course of litigation; and the drafting of recommendations and proposed orders for review by the supervising judge. Because your research and drafting will be influential in the judge's actual decisionmaking process, it is essential that your work be performed at the highest professional level and that it be performed promptly.

The internship program also provides students the opportunity to observe, first hand, the inner workings of the judicial system. You will begin to learn how litigation is viewed from the judge's perspective, and hopefully will acquire an appreciation for what works, and does not work, in the court system. You will also make valuable acquaintances and, if your work is of high caliber, secure the support and commendation of a judge who may be helpful in your career placement.

The internship program is, in addition, an excellent means by which Stetson builds upon its reputation in the legal community. You are a representative of the law school, and your performance helps determine whether judges and lawyers look favorably upon our institution.

Thus, the selection committee attaches great importance to its evaluation of your capacity to do excellent work and to represent the law school's standards of professionalism. Your grades, extracurricular activities and work experience are important indicators for the committee, but we will also consider any other relevant information you wish to bring to our attention. It is up to you to make the best case for your selection when you complete the program application.

The internship program is an excellent learning opportunity for any student, regardless of whether he or she intends to work in the court system or become a professional litigator. But if you are a student who seriously intends to seek a judicial clerkship upon graduation, the internship program is essential. During the past seven years, Stetson has succeeded in placing more than 25 students in federal clerkship positions upon graduation. Every one of these has interned with a federal judge before graduation, and has been strongly assisted by the judge's recommendation. Thus, we especially urge you to apply to the program if you intend to seek a clerkship position upon graduation.

Specific Comments Concerning the Federal Judicial Internship Program

Currently, three federal district judges and four judge-magistrates participate in the program. These include Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich (founder and co-administrator of the program), Judge Susan Bucklew, Judge Henry Adams, Judge Magistrate Thomas Wilson, Judge Magistrate Elizabeth Jenkins, Judge Magistrate Thomas McCoun, and Judge Magistrate Mark Pizzo. All their offices are located in the federal courthouse building in Tampa, and so you will be expected to commute to those offices on the internship day to which you are assigned.

Today, federal court practice is overwhelmingly a "paper" practice. That is, oral argumentation -- and for that matter, trial -- is uncommon. Instead, decisions are made based on advocacy through written memoranda or briefs.

Because of the heavy docket load of federal judges (particularly in the Middle District), they must be strongly assisted by clerks and interns who can review the voluminous case filings and research the numerous legal issues presented during the course of federal litigation. If selected for the federal internship program, you will be doing a considerable amount of sophisticated research and writing. You will not have time to rehabilitate your research and writing skills during the program, and so the selection committee places great importance on your demonstrated capacity to do good work. If you have weak grades and have not otherwise given indication that you can perform high caliber analysis, research and writing, you face an uphill battle in applying for the program. Please be aware of this from the outset.

In addition to performing research and writing tasks, you will also observe numerous proceedings in federal court. These typically include mediation, arbitration, jury selection, criminal sentencing, and trial. You are also required to keep a journal of your daily courtroom activities, and retain copies of all written work that you complete during the semester. This record will not only provide your supervising professor an opportunity to review your work, it will provide you a valuable resource when you graduate from law school.

Specific Comments Concerning the State Judicial Internship Program

Currently, circuit and county judges from the Sixth and Thirteenth Judicial Circuits participate in the program. The judges are located in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, New Port Richey, Dade City, Tampa, and Lakeland. You will be expected to commute to the courthouse to which you are assigned.

Students selected as state judicial interns will be assigned to one or more judges. Those students will be doing research and writing, as well as observing of a number of proceedings. These proceedings include hearings and trials. You are also required to write a paper on some aspect of the judicial process. Detailed time records and copies of all your written work are given to the Professor. This record provides your supervising professor an opportunity or review your work while providing you with resource materials for use after graduation from law school. It is important that you have good research and writing skills and that you are reliable.

Students participating in the State Judicial Internship program are required to pass a background check before being allowed to participate in the program. If you believe you might have a problem passing the background check, you should see Professor Morgan privately.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Programs:

1. What are the criteria for selection?

The members of the selection committee consider such factors as your GPA, extracurricular activities, relevant work experience, previous internship opportunity, and graduation date. Please understand: While your graduation date is given some consideration by the committee, there is no strict preference for seniors. So do not expect to be selected simply because you are a senior or have previously applied to the program.

2. What if I am not selected?

You may always reapply if you are not accepted. In fact, most students are not selected when they first apply, given the large number of qualified applicants. Do not be discouraged if you are not selected the first time(s) you apply.

3. Can I seek reconsideration, or appeal, in the event I am not selected?

No. The committee does the best it can when making selections. Every semester, the committee turns down highly-qualified applicants and does so with reluctance. But once the decisions are made, they are final. Please do not, under any circumstances, ask to discuss your application with a committee member once decisions are made. Our selections are relative, based on the qualifications of the total applicant pool, and we are prohibited from discussing the specific qualifications of other applicants.

4. Should I request a particular judge in my application?

If you are acquainted with a particular judge, you may request that judge. Otherwise, you need not state a preference, and the lack of a stated preference will not adversely affect your application. Please note that there is no predictable difference in the type or difficulty of work performed for a judge or judge magistrate. The great majority of research projects are pretrial motions covering the full gamut of possible legal issues.

5. Should I seek recommendations to accompany my application?

No. The committee will not consider recommendations, and disfavors student efforts to lobby for a position through the use of judges, faculty, alumni, attorneys etc.

6. What are the hours/days I will be expected to work?

Federal: During the fall and spring semesters, you must intern one full day per week and perform an additional 8 hours of work outside the court. During the summer, you must intern two days per week.

State: During fall and spring semesters, you are expected to spend 16 hours in your judge's court. During the summer, you are expected to spend 32 hours in your judge's court.

7. What credit do I receive?

Federal: You receive four (4) hours of pass/fail credit. Grades are recommended by the supervising judge, but the supervising professor has final authority to award a grade. Almost always, the professor will award the grade recommended by the supervising judge.

State: You receive four (4) hours of pass/fail credit. Grades are based on your performance, your class participation, and your compliance with the course requirements.

8. Can I enroll in the internship program while simultaneously taking a clinic, practicum or other internship program?

No. That is why we ask that you list your preference when you submit multiple applications. Given the limited opportunities available in the various programs, we must ask that you choose.

9. Can I repeat the same internship program?

No. You are limited to one participation in each program. You may, however, apply for other programs, e.g., you may apply for the federal program after completing the state program.

10. Are there class meetings?

Yes. These are scheduled periodically and attendance is mandatory. If you are unwilling to take the time to attend these meetings, do not apply. Classes are generally scheduled for Wednesday afternoons, starting at either 3:30 or 4:30.

11. Are there course prerequisites for applying to the program?

Strictly speaking, no. Because you will not be practicing law in the program (a distinction between the internship program and clinics), you need not have taken professional responsibility. That said, however, we strongly recommend that you have completed evidence, constitutional law and, if possible, professional responsibility before applying. You can expect that the judges will emphasize ethics and will expect you to know the bounds of ethical conduct in their courtrooms and chambers.

Also be aware that the work assigned to you in court is highly varied. In federal court, for example, you may work on civil procedure problems (almost guaranteed), evidence problems, criminal sentencing problems, civil rights problems, bankruptcy problems, etc. There is no predictable pattern to the types of work given you. Be prepared for anything.

12. Can I be assured of being assigned working hours and days that are compatible with my course schedule?

No. But 90 percent of the time, we are able to work out scheduling problems. We'll do our best. Federal interns will be advised of their internship day (based, to the extent possible, on their stated preference) as soon as possible to assist them in finalizing their schedules. State interns must work out their internship days with the supervising judge.

13. What will hurt me on my application?

First, if your application is incomplete, it will not be read. Second, students often fail to answer ostensibly "soft" questions like, "why do you wish to participate in the program?" These questions are not soft to the committee, and we interpret glib answers as a lack of sincere interest. Do your best on the application.

14. What if my application is late?

You will not be considered, in fairness to other students who played by the rules.

15. May I arrange a judicial clerkship with a judge who is not formally participating in the program?

Generally not. If a judge is located with the greater Tampa Bay area, he or she is welcome to participate in the program. When a judge joins the program, students will be assigned to that judge through the standard application process.

On occasion, a judge outside the Tampa Bay area may participate in the program. This requires (under applicable ABA standards) that the judge comply with existing program requirements and that a professor currently supervising interns be willing to do on-site visits to the judge's court. Thus, if you wish to obtain credit for judicial internships outside the Tampa Bay area, you must pre-clear such internships with the head of the state or federal programs, apply through the normal application process and be selected, before being assigned to any judge. Local placements are given priority in assignment of interns. No exceptions.