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GIVING BACK

Brandon Hughey, 2017 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award, interned with the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

I am a Senior at UW Madison, and I will be graduating in December 2017 with double majors in Legal Studies and History and with the Criminal Justice Certificate. It is my plan to attend law school after my undergrad comes to an end.

This Summer I had the amazing opportunity to intern with the Wisconsin Innocence Project where I worked with attorneys and law students on five post-conviction cases where we believed there was evidence of innocence. I also worked on one case where our goal was to write a petition for restitution for a client who was previously exonerated. This internship has not only affirmed my convictions that law school will be my next chapter after my undergraduate career, but also, it strengthened my abilities to think critically and skeptically about the world around me.

I was interested in a legal career ever since high school; however, I was not confident that a career in the legal profession was for me - everything from the challenges of getting into law school to the inherent pitfalls of our current system made me question if going into law was a feasible track. Because of that, I came into UW- Madison under the impression that I would go to Business school. After I realized that was not for me, I decided that I would be pre-med. After I realized that I did not have a passion for biology, I had to re-evaluate what I wanted. I took an intro political science class, and the first third of the class focused on the historical basis of America and highlighted the constitution. This class helped me discover that my passion is learning about the underpinnings of society. I wanted to question why social rules and customs are the way they are. That made it easy decide that I should major in Legal Studies, History, and Criminal Justice. Those degrees all intertwined so that I could look at how laws and social structures interact. I truly believe that a lawyer’s job is to be an applied legal historian; lawyers needs to have the substantive knowledge as well as the historical skills of contextualization and skepticism of sources to be successful.

I was lucky enough to have started volunteering with the Innocence Project in November of 2016. This was mostly doing scanning projects; however, that transitioned into working on two cases: One case with Attorney Borde and a second case with Attorney Wiercioch. I transitioned from being a volunteer to being an Intern in May 2017. I worked primarily on homicide cases which were intellectually challenging and engaging. In each case, I had the responsibility to understand all the material in each casefile and to brainstorm how to best advance cases. Those steps could be requesting more records or evidence, finding missed legal claims within the record, contacting experts to help make sense of specific case findings, or even looking for claims such as ineffective assistance of counsel. As I interned, I was fortunate enough to work with law students who are fitting examples of how to be a responsible law student, and I got to work with fantastic defense attorneys. I learned by example through watching both the law students and supervising attorneys attack cases, form legal arguments, and conduct research. The experience was invaluable because I now have concrete examples of what it truly means to be a law student and an attorney. Beyond that, I refined my own reading and research skills through emulating the law students and the supervising attorneys as I conducted my share of our cases.

I am truly thankful and humbled by being one of the recipients of the Audrey J. Harris Award. I am thankful to the Harris family for helping me follow my dreams through their generous award. I am also thankful to the Criminal Justice Certificate faculty who determined that I am worthy of this award. This scholarship allowed me the opportunity to take this internship course.