Witnessing the Practice of Law

Graciela Garcia said her textbooks and classroom lessons came to life this summer in the Walker County Courthouse.

“A lot of stuff I learned in textbooks and heard in class are true,” said Garcia, who served as an intern with the Walker County District Attorney’s Office. “In criminal law, I learned that 96 percent of the cases plea out, and only 4 percent go to trial. It is so true. The prosecutors tell me they only go to trial once a month because most of the people plead guilty. Walker County shares its judges with three other counties, and they rotate the counties that they work with. It’s interesting to see things in the textbook come to life in practice.”

Garcia plans to attend law school in the Fall of 2017, and her internship provided her with practical experience on the inner working of the criminal justice system. She assisted the District Attorney’s Office by preparing the paperwork for cases on the court docket and had the opportunity to witness assistant district attorneys in action in the courtroom.

“I don’t think there is a better way to learn,” said Garcia. “I have read a lot of books and taken a lot of classes. But just getting to go to court and see people practice law, it just reaffirms that’s what I want to do. It was a real eye opener.”

Garcia was initially assigned to the felony department and later served in the misdemeanor division, working with legal assistants in preparing and filing the paperwork in cases involving drug possession, DWI, domestic violence, and burglary. She was fastidious in making sure every piece of paper was in the file because missing documents could be grounds for a mistrial. “Something that simple could have drastic effects,” she said.

Garcia got to sit in on two cases in court and discovered the importance of different processes in the system. For example, she never really thought about voir dire, the selection process for jurors. The questions asked aid in weeding out prejudice in the jury. “It is part of the foundation of criminal justice,” she said. “It is such an important thing to do before six or 12 people are selected for the jury.”

Walker County also stressed the importance of jury service and thanked citizens for participating. “One of my takeaways is the importance of the criminal justice system and the importance of everyday people participating in it,” Garcia said.

Garcia comes from a family of teachers and hopes to practice education law to fix problems her relatives have identified in the system. She plans to take a year off after graduating from Sam Houston State University to help raise money for law school.

“I come from a family of educators, so I guess it’s the circle of life,” said Garcia. “I listen to my Mom and Uncle talk about things that they want to change. And maybe I can do that for them.”

Member of The Texas State University System