Anonymous User wrote:[I got paranoid and deleted but since someone saw it, I'll put it back up.] Okay, I'll bite with a non-biglaw offering:
I'm a criminal AUSA. What my day looks like may not translate outside my district, given some specific characteristics of the crimes we see most. But in my district, for a newbie like myself (first year of work), here's what it looks like:
I am the lead/only attorney on almost all my cases (I'm also second-chair on a couple of cases). When I get assigned a new case, I review the file to identify which charges we're going to bring. That sounds impressive, but usually it's pretty clear what kind of a case it is so I'm just choosing between options. I also review the reports to make sure everything we need to prove the charges is in place. If there are any problems with the reports (which is fairly common), I call up the case agent and ask them about it (examples: is there a report from the state officers who were initially involved in the case? where did you get the photos for this lineup? do you have a recording of the interview?).
I also have to determine whether the defendant should be detained pending trial or not. Sometimes this is very straightforward and pro forma, sometimes I have to make an argument before a judge about it. (Make an argument = 2-3 minutes.) In some cases, it's necessary to put on evidence at a separate hearing on the issue, but I haven't had to do this yet.
Once that's taken care of, I need to draft an indictment to bring the case before the grand jury. This is very easy if it's a charge we see all the time/that I've indicted before because I can just reuse something; it's harder if it's the first time I've prosecuted a less common offense. My supervisor has to sign off on the indictment and I may need to consult a few people before submitting it.
I also need to draft a plea agreement. This isn't hard for about 95% of my cases, because we see so many of the same kinds of offenses that we have a lot of stock/standard pleas worked up for various situations. (This is also the case because I'm junior and get cases that look like they'll be pretty routine.) Writing a plea agreement from scratch is more complicated, because I have to figure out what kind of sentencing range to offer to sufficiently address the seriousness of the crime while still providing some benefit to encourage the defendant to take the plea.
Another big thing is disclosure. I don't have to do much to prepare the physical documents, but sometimes I manually redact reports. And I have to make sure all appropriate disclosure goes out to the defense attorneys, so there's a fair amount of keeping track of what's come in/gone out.
The next stage is indicting the case. I go before the grand jury with my agent, put my agent on the stand, and get them to testify to the probable cause underlying the charges. I go to grand jury probably 2 weeks out of 3, usually 1-3 cases each time.
After that point, I have to keep track of plea deadlines and contact defense counsel to check the status on their end. LOTS of my cases end with the defendant taking a plea (it's just the nature of the cases we get and what we charge). Even when they do, the deadlines often get continued, and it's part of my job to ensure that the continuances don't just drag on forever - at some point I have to be willing to say, Look, this is the last deadline, if you don't take the plea by then we'll go to trial. (I haven't had to do this very much yet and haven't figured out a great way to do it yet either; there are different approaches in the office.) I also respond to defense counsel questions/requests for a better deal.
In some cases, defendants file a formal motion - so far, motions to suppress evidence/statements - and I need to respond and prepare for an evidentiary hearing on the matter. Preparing means calling up the case agent to get them to round up the field agents to come in and talk to me about the case. (Or whoever needs to testify, but usually in my cases it's field agents.) I also have to prepare exhibits (if any), an exhibit list, and a witness list. (Half of the learning curve in this job is figuring out which documents you need to prepare and whether you file them with the court or bring them to the hearing, how many copies you need, etc.) At the evidentiary hearing I put on my witnesses and introduce my exhibits, defense counsel crosses, and I re-direct. (If defense put on witnesses I'd cross-examine, but that hasn't happened yet.) I also make legal argument at the end based on the testimony presented.
(Evidentiary hearings aren't everyday things. I have done one on my own and have 2 more upcoming, but a couple of the folks who started about 6 months before I did haven't done any yet. It just depends on the luck of the draw with your cases.)
If you get a defendant who doesn't want to plead, you go to trial. I haven't yet done a trial (though I have three scheduled for this summer), so I won't go into the details too much. There are a set of sort of stock motions in limine you need to file, depending again on the specific charge and circumstances of your case. You may have a hearing on motions in limine, to determine whether specific pieces of evidence are admissible (expert reports/criminal history/statements/etc.). You prep witnesses, exhibits, and go. Most of the cases that I handle are going to be 2 day trials, maybe 3, tops (if the defendant testifies, for instance).
In terms of a typical day: I get to work around 8:30. Probably 2-3 mornings a week I have routine court hearings, mostly changes of plea and sentencings. COPs require very little effort on my part beyond showing up (they can be more work for defense attorneys if halfway through the defendant balks at admitting what s/he needs to admit to enter a plea, though!).
Sentencings can be routine or more contested. Most of the time, the hardest work in a sentencing goes to the defendant, who is arguing for a lower sentence than has been recommended. Occasionally the government wants a different sentence than what's been recommended, or needs to put on evidence to establish, say, a particular sentencing enhancement. Mostly if you have a contested sentencing, you'd file a sentencing memo ahead of time (though a lot of defense counsel here are terrible about doing this). Putting on witnesses is uncommon, but can happen.
As I mentioned above, some weeks I also have to present at grand jury, which is usually in the mornings.
There aren't a lot of court hearings in the afternoon. That's usually when I identify questions I need to ask more experienced attorneys (that is, everyone), and tromp around the office trying to track down people who can answer. Or I make calls, or I work on writing projects. Or if I have something coming up (evid. hrg or trial or the like) I'll do witness prep. We also have trainings periodically. Other things that come up (that I haven't done yet but will) include going to detention centers to interview witnesses, or going to the scene of an offense to take pictures/get the lay of the land.
I almost always leave by 5:30, and the office empties out by then. If I have a trial or hearing coming up, I may work late or on the weekend. I know some people work longer hours but I haven't figured out what's typical and what's me still being new and so on.
Like I said, some of this is going to be specific to my district, and some of it is specific to me being a newbie. I'm not (yet) involved in a lot of investigations, which require a lot more work on the front end, building the case and working more directly with agents, which can change the nature of what you do (a lot more search warrants, for instance!).
Just checking to see if you still look at this site. If so, I have a few questions. Thank you. Ed