My Summer with a Judge

What’s it like to be a judge?

It’s my sixth week of working for Judge Dineen Riviezzo of the Kings County (Brooklyn) Supreme Court. Judge Riviezzo hears felony cases and Article 10 civil confinement cases. Also, every Friday, she’s in charge of the juvenile offender part, where she hears cases involving 14, 15, and 16-year-olds who would normally be heard in Family Court, but because they commit certain serious crimes, are heard in Supreme Court (but are often afforded youthful offender treatment).

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View of Brooklyn from the Judge’s chambers

So far, I can say that being a judge requires three major qualities.

First, it requires patience. Whether it’s dealing with an attorney’s mistake, sorting out a disagreement between the parties, or waiting for a defendant to be produced or parties to show up, I’ve learned that for judges, every day is a test of patience.

Second, being a judge requires discernment. This goes without being said, but being in the courtroom every day has reminded me that judges must constantly evaluate the words that are being spoken and the credibility of the individuals in front of them.

Third, being a judge requires attentiveness to detail. Whether it’s scrutinizing an attorney’s brief or a police officer’s search warrant request, it’s imperative that judges pay attention to every detail so that their decisions are in accordance with the law, and within the powers afforded to them.

One of my main roles as Judge Riviezzo’s intern is to assist her in this responsibility of being attentive to details, and help her find answers to tricky questions. For example, I’m currently doing research for a pending case and have to figure out what it means for property to be “abandoned” by a defendant, and thus searchable by the police without a warrant. For the same case, I’m also researching what types of situations fall under what’s called the “public safety exception” to Miranda warnings, which allows officers to question defendants without reading them their Miranda rights when public safety is at risk.

My time here in chambers and at court has been fascinating, to say the least. Every day is filled with new and interesting cases – some with complicated and tricky fact patterns, others with complex and troubled individuals, many with both. For Judge Riviezzo, every day also comes with the opportunity to make a difference out on the streets of Brooklyn. Whether it’s giving a juvenile offender a second chance by placing him in a community alternatives program rather than in prison, or keeping a dangerous repeat sex offender in confinement until he or she is properly treated and rehabilitated, I have a feeling that the daily challenges and frustrations of being a judge are far outweighed by the opportunity to bring greater safety and hope to the community.

Venus Chui is a rising 2L at BC Law and the incoming president of the Christian Legal Society. Feel free to contact her with questions about her experience, BC Law, or law school in general. Comment here or send her an e-mail at venus.chui@bc.edu.

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