Blair County Courthouse

Always on the Move

John Hicks shares his internship experience from the Blair County District Attorney’s office.

John Hicks is a December 2018 criminal justice graduate who completed an internship at the Blair County District Attorney’s office in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

I'm an extremely active person, so my initial worry was that the lawyers at the Blair County District Attorney’s office would just sit at desks all day long, and I wouldn’t be moving around very much. But it’s like a bee hive there. Lawyers are always on the move. They’re going to the Child Advocate Center to speak to witnesses and victims, they're going to autopsies, they’re going to crime scenes—some of them are really hard to keep up with!

I'm a self-starter, so I would always be asking people what they needed help with. I wanted to do as much as possible. One project I worked on was creating a system to transfer hard copy records and case files to a digital format. I worked with IT to get a system set up, then scanned case files.

I also did destruction of evidence from old case files. I would go through the files to make sure there was nothing open, just box after box starting from around 2005.

John Hicks (fourth from left) is pictured with some of the people he worked with during his internship at the Blair County Courthouse.

John Hicks (fourth from left) is pictured with some of the people he worked with during his internship at the Blair County Courthouse.

Credit: John Hicks

I was able to write an opposition brief for a motion to suppress evidence. I was at my desk for two days doing that. I think I spent 15 hours on it, but I didn't mind. I found it interesting and a good experience. Eventually, I was also allowed to watch ongoing investigations, which was so interesting.

Thursdays, I would head to district court, but on Wednesdays, I spent most of my day in central court for preliminary hearings. I liked that a lot because I could watch the process of plea deals and observe the interactions between defense attorneys and prosecutors. The other great part was that just about every entity of the criminal justice system was there at the same time, and that gave me the chance to speak with all of them. I learned so much from discussions with employees from every branch of the system. I picked their brains for anything I could. I'd just invite myself to lunch with the DA, police, or employees from the sheriff’s department. If they were doing other things, I'd tag along and try to learn everything from the ground up.

I saw and did most of what I could. There was no way to learn all of it, but I got a glimpse into everything, and that was incredibly helpful. Sitting in the classroom or reading a book is one thing, but hands-on experience is totally different. To see it all in person is so valuable.

From this internship, I realized that, yes, I do have a passion for this work, and it’s the career I want for myself. I am now sure about going to law school and studying criminal law. I want to get into the State Attorney General's office initially, then move into the Department of Justice where I would be able to investigate government and things like insider trading. I want to do as much as I can for my country, and that's my baseline. I believe all human beings should be free, and enjoy the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To ensure this, all citizens must receive due process and equal treatment under the law. I don't think that's happening because our government exempts themselves from insider trading and other laws, and I want to change that.

My time at the district attorney’s office was a great learning experience. I loved every second of it. It was like dipping a toe in the pool, and now I’m ready to jump.

To learn more about internships, please contact Tom Shaffer, academic internship coordinator, at [email protected] or 814-949-5789.