By Susanna Klose ’23
I began my summer judicial internship with Albany City Court Criminal Part Judge Joshua Farrell in my home city of Albany, New York with the hope that I would eventually be in-person sometimes, and see the behind-the-scenes perspective of working with a judge. Unfortunately, that never happened.
This is not to say that working with Judge Farrell isn’t everything I wanted the experience to be and more. It is to say that having a virtual judicial internship in an odd summer of COVID-19 waves has presented a unique experience of its own.
Attorneys found themselves in a very odd position when courts first shut down due to the global pandemic. The adjustments that they made were just as large, if not larger than having my 1L year at the University at Buffalo School of Law be remote most of the time. Microsoft Teams became the meeting ground and judges found themselves allowing people into their virtual courtrooms. Courts made every effort to maintain their normal routine. They went so far as to have a computer displaying the empty courtroom as one of the screens viewable to participants in the meeting.
Attorneys and parties alike were allowed to sign on from their homes, their vacations (one attorney called in from the beach to represent his client!), their offices, and even their cars –anywhere that was most convenient to them in their day-to-day happenings.
Back in early to mid-July, courts in Albany finally opened back up to some in-person proceedings. As I had been splitting my time fairly equally between Albany and Buffalo, I never did opt to do that in-person viewing, but Judge Farrell and the Court were more than accommodating; they were hybrid! This shift to an open courtroom allowed hybrid proceedings to occur, something I definitely had not thought about prior to witnessing it with my own two eyes.
The courtroom is normal in these proceedings (with an empty gallery, of course), with Judge Farrell and the parties present in person along with the clerk and the officers in the court, while defendants and attorneys alike join via Microsoft Teams. Microphones in the courtroom make it possible for everyone to hear each other during hybrid hearings.
As COVID-19 numbers and variants are on the rise in the United States, the way in which court proceedings occur moving forward will more than likely be just as innovative and interesting to view as they have been thus far. Being present in the courtroom as these transitions were occurring was both fascinating to witness, but also a lesson to me as a hopeful future attorney. This is an adaptable field full of adaptable people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure justice doesn’t stop. I hope to embody that lesson in my career and life moving forward from this experience.
On top of feeling as though this has been one of the most enriching educational experiences I’ve had, witnessing the resilience and the adaptability of the legal profession is going to prepare me to be a better attorney and I couldn’t be more thankful. No one knows where the legal profession will go moving forward, whether hybrid proceedings become a norm, or whether they have to shut down again, or whether they open completely and go back to the way things ran pre-pandemic. I personally think the legal profession has forever changed under these circumstances and attorneys will enjoy the flexibility of virtual proceedings at least some of the time. It will be interesting to see how the pandemic permanently affects the legal profession as I leave law school and enter the workforce.
I would like to sincerely thank Hon. Joshua Farrell and Albany City Court for being so welcoming and allowing me the wonderful opportunity to learn and experience what court is truly like. I would also like to sincerely thank the University at Buffalo School of Law Summer Public Interest Funding & Fellowship Program and the donors to the Ross M. Cellino ‘82 and Anna Marie Cellino ‘81 Summer Fellowship. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have received this summer thanks to this fellowship.
Name: Susanna Klose ‘23
Name of Fellowship: Ross M. Cellino ‘82 and Anna Marie Cellino ‘81 Summer Fellowship
Location: Albany, NY
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “The world is not going to slow down to allow you to process change, work with it and learn from it, as best you can!”