By: Joshua Larmon ’23
If you ask someone to conjure up an image of Lady Justice, many will readily call to mind the robed figure looming over our courts and government buildings. She stands sentinel—unmoving and resolute—atop our most important halls of power. Lady Justice is blindfolded, unable to see those who come before her. In her right hand, she carries the scales of justice. Unweighted and impartial, the scales of justice represent the instrumentality of our judicial system. They represent the application of law to fact: the pursuit of truth free from prejudice, findings based on the presentation of evidence subject to the confrontation of witnesses and the crucible of cross-examination. Atop her head is the laurel wreath, symbolizing the great mantel of responsibility and social trust placed upon our judicial system.
One of the most striking features of Lady Justice, however, is the sword she carries in her left hand. It represents—sometimes literally—the execution of justice. Just like the sword Lady Justice carries, justice must be swift and final. In our modern criminal justice system, state and federal prosecutors are that sword. With that immense power comes the responsibility exercise it ethically and in a way that advances justice. As Justice Sutherland stated in Berger v. United States, “while [a prosecutor] may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.”
This summer, I got to experience what it feels like to “be the sword” in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Assigned to the Civil Division in the Brooklyn office, I am learned what it really looks like to be a prosecutor in one of the busiest jurisdictions in the United States. Unlike last summer—when I was a summer law clerk at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York in Buffalo—this year, my work was largely focused on defensive litigation. I was fortunate to be assigned to work with a 30-year veteran Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) who dealt mainly with cases arising under the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as mandamus petitions.
The federal government gets sued, a lot. When it does, it is often AUSA’s in the Civil Divisions of the United States Attorneys’ Offices who respond. Although much of my work centered on immigration matters pending before United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) and the Department of State, I worked alongside AUSA’s who covered a broad range of issues, from lawsuits under the Federal Tort Claims Act to disputed Social Security claims.
While most of my work was legal research and writing assignments on issues involving civil procedure and administrative law, I also had many opportunities to observe court proceedings. One of the most interesting things my fellow Civil Division interns and I got to witness was the sentencing of Robert Sylvester Kelly (R. Kelly) on June 29, 2022. Hearing the victim impact statements in the courtroom and seeing the expertise of the prosecuting AUSA’s is something that I will never forget. Witnessing the sentencing in-person, then getting the news alerts on my iPhone fifteen minutes later, made me really understand what it means to “make the news.” Indeed, one of the lighter moments of that day was when, while walking from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to the courthouse on Cadman Plaza, our cohort of civil interns was mistaken for prosecutors and swarmed by the press corps.
Another notable component of my summer internship was the opportunity to hear panelists and speakers at events organized by the Criminal Division. Our speakers included a Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) of the United States. Hearing the DSG speak about the strategic litigation undertaken by his office helped me better understand the role of the Solicitor General with respect to both the Supreme Court and Department of Justice. Other speakers included the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, as well as AUSA’s working in the office’s Environmental Justice, Civil Rights, and Social Security Litigation teams.
My summer in the Eastern District was an incredible opportunity to experience firsthand what it means to be a federal prosecutor in New York. This opportunity was made possible be the generous support of the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Summer Public Interest Funding & Fellowship Program, who awarded me the UB Law Alumni Association Public Interest Fellowship Award.
Name: Joshua Larmon, 2023
Name of Fellowship: UB Law Alumni Association Public Interest Fellowship Award
Placement: United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York
Location: Brooklyn, NY
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “Be aggressive—but professional—about asking for work and getting assignments that are of interest to you. Government is not always well organized, and government employees do not always think to assign work to interns. Always be eager to work and persistent in asking for it. The work will come!”