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Public Interest Law Project

Amanda Alvarez

October 26, 2011

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Metropolitan Public Defender

Metropolitan Public Defender, Portland, OR 

 

This summer my PILP stipend allowed me to work at the very kind of institution that made me want to go to law school: Metropolitan Public Defender. Metropolitan Public Defender is the largest criminal indigent defense provider in the area. Attorneys at MPD represent every kind of client imaginable, from misdemeanor clients all the way to capital cases. While each kind of case is different, every single one of MPD’s clients is experiencing the same thing: one of the scariest times in their lives.

 

Facing a criminal conviction, even if it doesn’t come with jail time, can mean big things for any person. Once a criminal conviction is on your record, finding a job is exponentially harder. For indigent clients, like those represented by MPD, a criminal conviction can mean critical time away from jobs and lost wages. While some wealthier defendants may be able to survive the financial struggles that the criminal process comes with, many of MPD’s clients cannot.

 

While at MPD, I got to work on a number of interesting research projects, including the application of the equal protection clause to random license plates checks, a motion to include hearsay evidence in a child sex case, and various motions to suppress evidence. Most notably, I wrote a winning motion to suppress evidence that after being argued in front of a judge in Washington County, resulted in the client’s charges being dismissed. Additionally, I got to volunteer at MPD’s no-cost expungement clinic every week, helping clients move on from their pasts and move onto brighter futures. 

 

But while the research was interesting, the reason I loved worked at MPD was knowing that I was helping people during a crucial time in their lives. I got to talk with our clients, laugh with them, and learn from them. In doing so, I was given an inside look into the world of criminal defense. Specifically, I was able to see how the criminal process affects those most vulnerable in our society. Ultimately, working at MPD reaffirmed my desire to fight for justice for those who need it the most, and are sadly, the least likely to obtain it. 

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