Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doing the Impossible

(Note: At the Southern District Court, all electronics are taken away by security, including cell phones and cameras. Unfortunately, we were not able to get any pictures with the federal judge we met today or of the courthouse. However, I have obtained a picture of the judge from Google Images and will post it here.)

I awoke at 7:30 and took a shower so I would be fully awake for the day ahead of me. Then I got dressed in my turquoise dress and sandals and went downstairs for a quick breakfast. I met Luke and the residential students in our Con Law class by the Columbia gates. We took a long subway ride before making it to Lincoln Street, and after walking a couple blocks, we met up with Jeffrey and the commuter students in our class.

After going through security, we went upstairs to meet Federal Judge Alison Nathan. She was appointed seven months ago so she was very fresh about everything. Judge Nathan went to Cornell University for undergraduate studies and then came back to Cornell Law School. She was a lawyer in the Obama Administration and clerked for a judge for two years. She wasn't sure if she wanted to be a judge, but decided to go for it and went through a rigorous selection process. While she is still figuring out her judicial philosophy, it is apparent to me that she loves her job. I asked her if there are any easy parts to her job, seeing as though when she spoke about it, it all seemed very complicated and rigorous.

And I was right - being a judge is complicated and rigorous. Judge Nathan said that the only easy part of her job is singing requests for lawyers and parties to get all the information/evidence they need for a case. She follows a schedule such as giving them 3 months to organize oral questions.

Judge Nathan has a life term and gets about 300 civil cases, which sounds like a lot because it is a lot. She told us she felt that jury trials are good for criminal cases and that she has had cases with people representing themselves but she tries to be as fair as possible. It was a pleasure meeting her! She even let us sit in the jury chairs and then her own chair!

Judge Nathan 
After meeting Judge Nathan, we went upstairs and saw a court case! The government was presenting it's case against Larry Seabrook, a councilman being charged with fraud. Since no verdict has been stated I won't reveal any of what we heard, but I will say it was all very interesting. At first I was disappointed at how "bland" the lawyers were being, but then I realized that's how it is in real life. All the drama and waving of the hands and throwing files on the floor is just television. Sometimes the lawyers would ask basic questions to the witness that I knew the lawyer's knew the answer to, but I realized that they are doing this because they have to lay out all the facts.

Once the court recessed for a lunch break, we decided to get lunch as well. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, which was a block from the courthouse. I sat at Luke's table and our conversation varied from AP classes to debate to German!

Lots of restaurants 
My meal of vegetable rolls and chicken fried rice (no I did not finish the whole thing, it would've been impossible) 
Class Photo - Unfortunately a lot of us are blinking (including myself), but I like this picture nonetheless and I'm sure we'll get a better one by the last day 
After eating we took the subway back to Columbia. I was able to get a quick nap in before our campus tour with Andrea, who attended the Columbia on Columbia dinner two weeks ago. To be honest, Columbia's main campus is not very big and I felt like we walked around in a circle, but I got to see a lot of buildings I hadn't seen yet and learn more about the school. Andrea really explained the Core Curriculum as well, and to be honest as I learn more about it, it doesn't appeal to me. It just seems much too rigid and like I wouldn't have time to take classes that I  really wanted to take. I feel like I'd be forced into classes I may not like or would be too rigorous for me. I'm still really grateful that Andrea gave us the tour, it was nice of her to take time out of her day to do that for us.

We had a meeting with Ms. L and then we went to dinner. However, after dinner I went back to my dorm and completely fell asleep. Tomorrow we have a quiz, and I'm going to get some studying in at breakfast and in between classes. Should be fun - not.

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