Just past security at 1 Saint Andrews Plaza, an enormous Department of Justice seal marks the entrance to the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. I stood there on my last day, the July sunshine warming my face, craning my neck to take in the motto blazing across the bottom in elegant capitals.
Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitir. Who prosecutes on the behalf of justice.
The USAO-SDNY is the nation's most storied federal prosecutor's office. Assistant U.S. attorneys, or AUSAs, prosecute federal statute violations in Manhattan, the Bronx, and other New York counties. As an intern, I spent every day humbled by the people with which I worked. One AUSA delivered a fiery rebuttal to a federal jury, then offered me law school tips as we rode the elevator back up to the office. Another, a former international studies major, spoke with me over coffee about his experience working for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague in the Netherlands, and then listened patiently to my ramblings to offer me solid career advice.
I spent my time in the Terrorism and International Narcotics unit, working with paralegals and AUSAs to compile trial materials, transcribe witness interviews, and peruse sworn affidavits. I learned the basics of legal counterterrorism strategy and saw countless court proceedings in various units, including a high-profile conviction of a Chinese businessman accused of bribing United Nations Ambassadors. I attended brown-bag lectures with unit chiefs, AUSAs, federal judges, paralegals, undercover agents—and of course, the U.S. Attorney Joon Kim. And I saw for the first time that "justice for all" is dependent on the hard work, commitment, and righteousness of a myriad of individuals and organizations with a singular, overarching goal.
They view their work as a calling: to serve the people, to pursue the truth, and to do the right thing.
Until now, I wanted to be an attorney because I loved arguing in the courtroom. But this internship made me realize that being a lawyer is not solely about trial time, convictions, or wins. It's about serving your country by committing yourself to the pursuit of justice. I was leaving behind an office full of passionate attorneys who understand and cherish the unique power of the prosecutor to fight for what they believe in. They stand up in a courtroom not to defend any client who hires them, but to defend justice. They have integrity, honor, and humility. They are patriots.
Qui Pro Domina Justitita Sequitir—who prosecutes on the behalf of justice.
I left with a renewed determination to one day join their ranks.
About the author
Ramya Prabhakar is a member of the Johns Hopkins University Class of 2019 and a pre-law student with majors in international studies and political science. This summer, Prabhakar served as an undergraduate intern in the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
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