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First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:50 am

What does the day to day look like for a first year AUSA in SoCal/WDTX/NM/AZ without any prior courtroom experience? I want to know what to expect and dont have any AUSA friends, especially on this side of the country. I’m imagining a lot of immigration offenses, but how involved are these? What sorts of motions will I be filing? Any recommendations on how to prepare? I have no trial or criminal experience. Thank you!

andythefir

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Re: First Year AUSA

Post by andythefir » Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:49 pm

No criminal experience, no trial experience, and you’re starting in a border district where you’ll see the highest volume and therefore highest likelihood of going to trial. I’m not an ausa, but that seems like a bad fit that is setting you up to struggle.

JakeTappers

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Re: First Year AUSA

Post by JakeTappers » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:08 pm

andythefir wrote:No criminal experience, no trial experience, and you’re starting in a border district where you’ll see the highest volume and therefore highest likelihood of going to trial. I’m not an ausa, but that seems like a bad fit that is setting you up to struggle.
So....the poster should rescind his acceptance? :lol: seems harsh. And the interviewers/USA apparently thought otherwise.

I clerked in a border district. Don’t despair despite this warning. There aren’t THAT many trials. And those cases that do go to trial as to border crimes, can be very simple. You’ll be second chair to start and be eased in. Read the ninth circuit criminal handbook if you can. That will give you some background as to a lot of the work you’ll be doing like grand jury, initial appearances, etc. the most difficult writing you’ll do to start is likely motions to suppress.

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Re: First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 20, 2018 4:34 pm

andythefir wrote:No criminal experience, no trial experience, and you’re starting in a border district where you’ll see the highest volume and therefore highest likelihood of going to trial. I’m not an ausa, but that seems like a bad fit that is setting you up to struggle.
OP here. Thanks for the concern. I am a bit concerned as well but ready to get into the courtroom. Do you have any recommendations on how I can best prepare? I know it will be a challenge

By the way, how’s Lubbock? Not to concern you, but your post history and username outs you. Not that you’ve posted anything unbecoming - just fyi

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Re: First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:33 pm

Okay, so first, the immigration offenses aren’t very involved. They’re good experience to learn how to run a case with, frankly, relatively low stakes. Even in a border district, volume isn’t comparable to being an ADA in a major city - the vast majority of defendants still plead, so while you will get to go to trial, you won’t be going to trial as frequently as state prosecutors seem to.

Second, offices that hire people out of the honors program (which is what I assume you’re talking about) know that those people are coming in without any experience, and are committed to training you. Actually, even if it’s not an honors position, if they’re willing to hire you without criminal/trial experience, they will understand the need to train you. (At least, enough people that you will be fine. You may encounter some curmudgeon who wants to grumble about bringing in know-nothings, but you can safely ignore them.) You should have a mentor, you will be walked through the steps of a case, and you won’t do anything substantive in court on your own for a while. You might actually first chair your first trial, but if so, you will have an experienced AUSA walking you through every step.

I agree that your most involved writing initially is likely going to be responding to motions to suppress. Also probably sentencing memos - the illegal reentry sentencings are much more straightforward now than they used to be, but you will still have a lot of sentencings and some will require work/research. Assuming you’ve clerked (mostly bc those offices usually require it of honors candidates) you won’t have any problem with the writing, and there are lots of go-bys for standard issues.

I won’t lie, without criminal/trial experience it is a steep learning curve. A lot of people won’t realize what you don’t know, so you will need to balance getting the information you need (if you know what to ask!) with not annoying people with constant questions. It may take a while before things click for you, but that’s okay. Personally I found it helpful to remind myself that no one is actually born knowing how to prosecute, that everyone has to learn how.

It’s a little hard to know what to recommend because, for me at least, it was hard to make sense of it all out of context - I had to learn by doing it. But depending on when you last took crim pro, maybe get hold of Dressler or something and review that. (If you didn’t take crim pro - neither did I. You can learn it.)

So tl;dr - it will probably be tough at first but you will learn and do fine. I know a bunch of honors people in your position who were fine.

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Anonymous User
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Re: First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:10 pm

I’m starting as well in a major district but with biglaw experience. Any other prep advice? I’ve got a few months. The criminal handbook is like 350 dollars lol

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Re: First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:27 pm

Bump

Anonymous User
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Re: First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Mar 30, 2024 10:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:33 pm
Okay, so first, the immigration offenses aren’t very involved. They’re good experience to learn how to run a case with, frankly, relatively low stakes. Even in a border district, volume isn’t comparable to being an ADA in a major city - the vast majority of defendants still plead, so while you will get to go to trial, you won’t be going to trial as frequently as state prosecutors seem to.

Second, offices that hire people out of the honors program (which is what I assume you’re talking about) know that those people are coming in without any experience, and are committed to training you. Actually, even if it’s not an honors position, if they’re willing to hire you without criminal/trial experience, they will understand the need to train you. (At least, enough people that you will be fine. You may encounter some curmudgeon who wants to grumble about bringing in know-nothings, but you can safely ignore them.) You should have a mentor, you will be walked through the steps of a case, and you won’t do anything substantive in court on your own for a while. You might actually first chair your first trial, but if so, you will have an experienced AUSA walking you through every step.

I agree that your most involved writing initially is likely going to be responding to motions to suppress. Also probably sentencing memos - the illegal reentry sentencings are much more straightforward now than they used to be, but you will still have a lot of sentencings and some will require work/research. Assuming you’ve clerked (mostly bc those offices usually require it of honors candidates) you won’t have any problem with the writing, and there are lots of go-bys for standard issues.

I won’t lie, without criminal/trial experience it is a steep learning curve. A lot of people won’t realize what you don’t know, so you will need to balance getting the information you need (if you know what to ask!) with not annoying people with constant questions. It may take a while before things click for you, but that’s okay. Personally I found it helpful to remind myself that no one is actually born knowing how to prosecute, that everyone has to learn how.

It’s a little hard to know what to recommend because, for me at least, it was hard to make sense of it all out of context - I had to learn by doing it. But depending on when you last took crim pro, maybe get hold of Dressler or something and review that. (If you didn’t take crim pro - neither did I. You can learn it.)

So tl;dr - it will probably be tough at first but you will learn and do fine. I know a bunch of honors people in your position who were fine.
Super necro, but I’m coming off of clerkships and joining a USAO through honors. No standup experience whatsoever. I worked on criminal trials in one of my clerkships, but that is not the same as doing the job. So I want to try and best prepare however I can before I start.

Do you have any recommended resources that I could take a look at? Obviously, that’s a poor substitute for doing the actual job, but I want to see if there’s anything I can read to prepare even the tiniest bit for the role. I’ll be in general crimes, so I will take a look at anything that pertains to that.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Mar 30, 2024 3:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 10:02 am
Super necro, but I’m coming off of clerkships and joining a USAO through honors. No standup experience whatsoever. I worked on criminal trials in one of my clerkships, but that is not the same as doing the job. So I want to try and best prepare however I can before I start.

Do you have any recommended resources that I could take a look at? Obviously, that’s a poor substitute for doing the actual job, but I want to see if there’s anything I can read to prepare even the tiniest bit for the role. I’ll be in general crimes, so I will take a look at anything that pertains to that.
Unfortunately the best substantive resources I know are internal DOJ resources, which doesn't help you now! But I think you can access and read through https://www.justice.gov/jm/justice-manual. It's not exactly a thrilling read and a lot of it is at a high level of generality, but it does lay out all the principles behind federal prosecution, and it will definitely introduce you to the culture of DOJ (lol).

People often say read your local rules, and while stuff like that didn't make much sense to me out of context, it is probably still worth doing - not to learn them by heart (I have to look stuff up regularly), but to get some familiarity with what they cover.

Not DOJ-specific but more substantive (and entertaining) are the two bibles of trial practice (at least IMHO): Imwinkelried's Evidentiary Foundations and Mauet's Trial Techniques and Trials. They're not cheap books but incredibly worth the money - I still probably consult them for every trial. They both walk you through basic trial techniques (evidentiary and otherwise) in a super practical way. This may feel a little cart-before-the-horse at this point, as you probably won't be in trial for a little bit, but getting a handle on the evidentiary stuff in Imwinkleried especially will really help from the moment you start working up cases. The main thing you're doing when deciding whether to charge a case is figuring out if you have enough admissible evidence to prove the case in court, which means you need to know what is admissible and what you will need to do to get it admitted. (You're also figuring out what other evidence you need if you don't have enough yet.)

Last suggestion is to go review the jury instructions in your Circuit for the most commonly charged cases in your district. (If you're not sure of the latter, go look at the court calendar and see what kinds of criminal cases show up, but in most places you're going to be looking at distribution/possession with intent to distribute/conspiracy to either of those, possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor, possession and/or production of child sex abuse material, maybe bank/wire fraud, false statements, various immigration offenses if you're on the border, maybe bank robbery depending on the district if your USAO takes those or lets locals handle them). You definitely don't have to memorize anything (you will always go back and check them for each case anyway), but getting familiar with them helps.

Oh, I lied, one more suggestion (though this may be less pressing depending on what you did while clerking) is to go read the Sentencing Guidelines manual. I think's probably helpful to read and absorb the first chapter on general principles, maybe take a look at chapter 4 on calculating criminal history, and skim through some of the major offenses in chapter 2 on offense conduct. It's also helpful to take a look at the Sentencing Guidelines website, b/c there are lots of helpful resources that people can forget about.

To be absolutely clear: you don't need to do any of this ahead of time (and I don't know how much of it duplicates things you learned as a clerk). You'll learn it all as you go, and personally, I wouldn't have absorbed a ton of this reading it in a vacuum; it all makes much more sense when you have an actual case. But these are all things you'll use throughout your time in practice, so if you're looking for something to do now, you can get more familiar with them.

Anonymous User
Posts: 428452
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: First Year AUSA

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Mar 30, 2024 5:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 3:46 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 10:02 am
Super necro, but I’m coming off of clerkships and joining a USAO through honors. No standup experience whatsoever. I worked on criminal trials in one of my clerkships, but that is not the same as doing the job. So I want to try and best prepare however I can before I start.

Do you have any recommended resources that I could take a look at? Obviously, that’s a poor substitute for doing the actual job, but I want to see if there’s anything I can read to prepare even the tiniest bit for the role. I’ll be in general crimes, so I will take a look at anything that pertains to that.
Unfortunately the best substantive resources I know are internal DOJ resources, which doesn't help you now! But I think you can access and read through https://www.justice.gov/jm/justice-manual. It's not exactly a thrilling read and a lot of it is at a high level of generality, but it does lay out all the principles behind federal prosecution, and it will definitely introduce you to the culture of DOJ (lol).

People often say read your local rules, and while stuff like that didn't make much sense to me out of context, it is probably still worth doing - not to learn them by heart (I have to look stuff up regularly), but to get some familiarity with what they cover.

Not DOJ-specific but more substantive (and entertaining) are the two bibles of trial practice (at least IMHO): Imwinkelried's Evidentiary Foundations and Mauet's Trial Techniques and Trials. They're not cheap books but incredibly worth the money - I still probably consult them for every trial. They both walk you through basic trial techniques (evidentiary and otherwise) in a super practical way. This may feel a little cart-before-the-horse at this point, as you probably won't be in trial for a little bit, but getting a handle on the evidentiary stuff in Imwinkleried especially will really help from the moment you start working up cases. The main thing you're doing when deciding whether to charge a case is figuring out if you have enough admissible evidence to prove the case in court, which means you need to know what is admissible and what you will need to do to get it admitted. (You're also figuring out what other evidence you need if you don't have enough yet.)

Last suggestion is to go review the jury instructions in your Circuit for the most commonly charged cases in your district. (If you're not sure of the latter, go look at the court calendar and see what kinds of criminal cases show up, but in most places you're going to be looking at distribution/possession with intent to distribute/conspiracy to either of those, possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor, possession and/or production of child sex abuse material, maybe bank/wire fraud, false statements, various immigration offenses if you're on the border, maybe bank robbery depending on the district if your USAO takes those or lets locals handle them). You definitely don't have to memorize anything (you will always go back and check them for each case anyway), but getting familiar with them helps.

Oh, I lied, one more suggestion (though this may be less pressing depending on what you did while clerking) is to go read the Sentencing Guidelines manual. I think's probably helpful to read and absorb the first chapter on general principles, maybe take a look at chapter 4 on calculating criminal history, and skim through some of the major offenses in chapter 2 on offense conduct. It's also helpful to take a look at the Sentencing Guidelines website, b/c there are lots of helpful resources that people can forget about.

To be absolutely clear: you don't need to do any of this ahead of time (and I don't know how much of it duplicates things you learned as a clerk). You'll learn it all as you go, and personally, I wouldn't have absorbed a ton of this reading it in a vacuum; it all makes much more sense when you have an actual case. But these are all things you'll use throughout your time in practice, so if you're looking for something to do now, you can get more familiar with them.
Thank you, this is really helpful. I looked at some of the Justice manual already, but I will browse the other resources you mentioned. And your suggestion to look at jury instructions for cases commonly charged in the district makes a lot of sense to me. I appreciate the help!

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