By far one of the greatest ways USF Public Interest Law Foundation helps to make an impact in our community is by providing grants to USF Law students who choose to pursue unpaid summer legal work. This past summer, 25 remarkable students were selected to each receive grants of $4,000. We are proud to offer these grants through the generous donations we receive throughout the year as well as through several fundraising events sponsored by USF and PILF.
Our largest fundraising opportunity is the Annual PILF Gala and Auction. This year’s Gala and Auction takes place on November 4th. As the Auction draws nearer, we want to take a moment to introduce our most recent 2011 Summer Grantees in the Q&A’s below.
Alexia Mayorga Shares What Great Experience Working For A Judge Can Be
Alexia Cristina Mayorga is from Danville, CA. She attended Santa Clara University as an undergraduate. This past summer she worked for the Honorable Judge Garrett Wong. Judge Wong oversees Domestic Violence, Behavioral Health and Mental Health.
Why did you choose law school, and why USF in particular?
As a child I always dreamed of going to law school and thought it was a perfect fit for my personality. During my time at Santa Clara University I pursued legal internships in the public sector field. The work I was exposed to while interning at the Santa Clara Public Defender’s Officer solidified my decision to attend law school. I decided to attend USF Law because of their commitment to public sector work, in addition to their great reputation and sense of community I received while visiting the campus.
What kind of work did you do this summer?
This summer I was an extern for Judge Wong and observed his departments’ calendars, which include domestic violence, mental health and behavioral health calendars. During the summer I observed Judge Wong and assisted in projects concerning his behavior health court, which is a very successful collaborate court in San Francisco County. Also, I did research as to his mental health calendar (sexually violent predatory probable cause hearings, and competency proceedings).
What do you find most interesting about the work you are doing or the organization you are working for?
The most interesting part of my summer externship was the ability to see a collaborative court in action. The way Judge Wong’s behavioral health court operates is drastically different from what we are used to seeing in criminal courts. In the behavioral health court defendants are referred to as clients and seen as equals. Additionally, they are given the chance to prove themselves in the community, which leads to a rehabilitative approach to the criminal justice process as opposed to a punitive approach.
In addition to the BHC calendar, the domestic violence calendar allows me to witness negotiations by district attorneys and defense attorneys which lead to early dispositions. Witnessing the different negotiating styles is very educational. Judge Wong’s mental health calendar has introduced me to the complicated world of mental health proceedings and sexually violent predator probable cause hearings. All of these areas of the law receive minimal attention, and there are very few lawyers who specialize in it. By being able to witness these proceedings I am being introduced into an area of law that many lawyers, let alone law students know little about.
Are you interested in public interest legal work as a career? What sort of law would you like to practice?
Yes, I am very interested in public interest work. I have had experience in interning for public defenders and district attorneys, and now externing with Judge Wong adds to my experience in the public interest sector. In the future I would like to practice criminal defense, but would be open to any public sector work in the criminal field.