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Reflections of the 2017 Ronnie Anne Powell Intern: Chinsu Shajan

September 1, 2017

This summer, I had the pleasure of interning at Partners for Women and Justice. My first day, like anyone’s first day at a new job, was an exciting and nerve-wracking experience.  I was not completely new to the field of domestic violence, having participated in the Courtroom Advocates Project of Sanctuaries for Families where we interviewed victims of domestic violence and assisted them in drafting petitions for orders of protection.  But this was different.  The Ronnie Ann Powell Internship would offer me hands-on litigation experience.

I spent my first few weeks sitting in on client  intakes, observing attorneys in court, and learning  the lay of the land.  Later, I followed many clients from the initial intake to preparation for trial to the actual trial at which they received a final restraining order. Being able to help and to support these survivors through a time of crisis was truly rewarding for me. The look of relief on a victim’s face when the judge grants the final restraining order is what makes this work worthwhile.

 A few weeks into my internship, I was given my own case to try. Since I had no prior litigation experience I was very anxious about being in court and leading a trial, but the attorneys at Partners taught me everything I needed to know to successfully try the case. I handled all aspects of this case.  I conducted the intake, subpoenaed police officers, prepared the client, witnesses and evidentiary exhibits, and, finally, tried the case in court. One of the most important lessons I learned while working at Partners, especially from trying a case, is the importance of having an attorney represent the victims in court.

While preparing  for the case, it was a challenge to get the proper evidence we needed in time for trial and to get subpoenaed witnesses to appear in court to testify on behalf of the client. I thought, if we as attorneys have these challenges, what struggles must pro se litigants, with very little or no knowledge of the law and the justice system, face when appearing in court on their own. This summer I learned that lawyers can  help shift the power from the abuser  to victims.

At Partners, the main goal is to keep victims safe while empowering them to move on with their life.  Though Partners is a small organization, it handles hundreds of cases each year, and the utmost care and attention is given each matter that comes through the office. Those who work at Partners for Women and Justice are truly superheroes in disguise and should be commended for the work they do every day. Not only do they work tirelessly to bring justice to these victims, they go above and beyond to maintain the safety and wellbeing of their clients well after a court date. I am honored to have had the chance to work for this amazing organization as a Ronnie Ann Powel Intern.