A Summer with the Chautauqua County Public Defender’s Office

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By Scott Fogel ’23

During the Summer of 2021, I had the pleasure of serving as an Intern with the Chautauqua County Public Defender’s Office. I took on this internship because I have an interest in criminal law and it is my belief that people have rights, even when they are accused of heinous crimes. I think the philosophy of “lock them in jail and throw away the key” is a fundamental misunderstanding of criminal law in our popular culture. I believe that concept has led to several of the problems we now seeing in our prison system, from overcrowding, to people’s rights being violated. Criminal law is so much more than just law enforcement, and so much of it is absent from the public eye. From the number of available judges, to the District Attorney’s ability to bring cases in a quick and reasonable time, to the difficulties created by COVID-19, I entered a Public Defenders office that had its work cut out for it and many clients in need. 

Before I go into the details of my work and what it meant to me, I would like to take the time to personally thank those who made my unpaid internship possible though the generous giving that funded my fellowship this summer. My University at Buffalo Summer Public Interest Funding & Fellowship Program fellowship was made possible thanks to Ross and Anna Cellino, to whom I am very thankful. As a result of their generosity, I was able to take on an internship opportunity that was not close to where I lived in Buffalo. I was able to gain a fantastic experience working on behalf of people who needed my help and could not afford a private attorney. On behalf of myself and the people I worked with at the Chautauqua County Public Defender’s Office, I thank you. 

At the Chautauqua County Public Defender’s Office, I had the opportunity to present on my client’s behalf in court, in front of several judges, with a supervising attorney present. The ability to practice law in person and not just function as an office intern was a large part of my decision to take on a role with the Public Defender so far away from Buffalo. I could have taken on a role at a law firm or another organization closer to where I live. Yet the opportunity to take to the floor during hearings and actually practice was what I really wanted from my summer experience. I presented at my client’s arraignment hearings, preliminary hearings, made motions for bail, conducted research, and accompanied lawyers as they went about the business of serving the people. 

As a result of my summer opportunity with the Public Defender’s office, I will be strongly considering public defense as a career goal as I move forward in law school at the University at Buffalo School of Law


Name: Scott Fogel ‘23

Name of Fellowship: Ross M. Cellino ’82 and Anna Marie Cellino ’81 Fellowship 

Placement: Chautauqua County Public Defender’s Office

Location: Mayville, NY

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “The ability to practice law in person and not just function as an office intern was a large part of my decision to take on a role with the Public Defender so far away from Buffalo.”