Caitlin Brown is a student in the paralegal program here at Minnesota School of Business-Richfield (MSB). She is also a student worker, and a busy mother who is set to graduate this summer. One additional title she can add to her list: intern for Hennepin County District Court Judge Bruce Peterson.
MSB has successfully placed several of our paralegal program students in internships with Judge Peterson over the years. Caitlin landed the plum position after program chair Gabrielle Ruele recommended her.
Caitlin works with Judge Peterson in his specialty courts. Specialty courts run concurrent to the mainstream criminal and family courts and focus on subgroups of people (e.g. veterans, drug users, etc.) that may benefit from more individualized attention.
Caitlin has been spending time in both the co-parent court as well as the model drug court. In the drug court, Caitlin explains that the state is studying decriminalizing certain drug addict behaviors while focusing instead on a rigorous treatment process, housing, education and community involvement. Caitlin says that she has already learned a great deal from the success rate of this approach: “We need to treat [drug addiction] as a disease. We aren’t fixing it by sending [addicts] to prison.”
She says that Judge Peterson wants to help those who appear before him to change their way of thinking to a more positive mindset. “He’s very patient and understanding with them. He understands there might be a back-step, but instead of sending them to jail right away, he gives them multiple chances until they show they won’t comply consistently,” says Caitlin. “It’s really great seeing them progress through it. We don’t know what they are going through—the best we can do is empathize.”
Caitlin has also helped Judge Peterson wrap up his co-parent court as they conclude the study and prepare to send the findings to Ramsey County.
So far, Caitlin has concluded that the court system needs to fundamentally change. “[The internship] has really opened my eyes to the changes that need to go into effect. The justice system gets so overwhelming and the specialty courts enable you to work more closely with people—not everyone’s situation falls into a single category,” she explains.
Caitlin would love to be a court clerk someday and thankfully Judge Peterson’s court clerk has been working closely with her regarding training. Alternatively, Caitlin finds family law interesting and would like to work in a family law firm once she graduates.
Caitlin had a surprising reason for choosing MSB: the attendance policy. She knew if she was allowed to miss classes, she would take full advantage and not attend class. She also likes the small class sizes. Caitlin could have attended classes at the Shakopee or Plymouth campus, but chose Richfield because, “I liked the look and the feel of the campus—I pretty much knew this was the one,” she says.
Who would be a good candidate for the paralegal program in particular? “If they are very detail-oriented, good at multitasking, with strong written communication skills; if they like researching, it’s a good fit,” Caitlin answers. She adds, “There is a lot to learn—a lot of new things that are not common knowledge!”
When searching for a college to attend, Caitlin advises prospective students do their research. She states, “Many students come in and don’t know what to expect. They really need to be prepared—it’s very intense. The academic advisors set a path for the students and give a lot of one-on-one attention.”
Lest you think we have scared Caitlin off, she concludes, “[MSB] is a great school. It is staffed really well, and I really like it.”
We like you too, Caitlin, and we do hereby sentence you to a lifetime of success.
Court is adjourned.