Fordham Law student Andrea Rodriguez ’18 was recently honored by Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Joanne Quinones ’97 for having served as the inaugural participant in the Latino Judges Association’s Summer Internship Program.
At the Latino Judges Association Dinner on October 28, Quinones introduced Rodriguez, who related her internship experience to attendees.
“I spoke about what I learned from each judge, from each court, and how it impacted me as a person and my future legal career,” said Rodriguez.
The Latino Judges Association’s Summer Internship Program offers law students the opportunity to learn firsthand about the litigation process and to gain valuable contacts within the legal community by working with several judges in a number of courts throughout New York State.
By the time she completed her internship this summer, Rodriguez had worked with judges from the New York State Court of Appeals, Kings County Family Court, Bronx Criminal Court, Brooklyn Criminal Court, Kings County Surrogate Court, and the Queens County Supreme Court.
“I had interned for a judge during college, and there was not much interaction with him, so I just assumed that was what all judges were like,” said Rodriguez. “But I was very wrong. I was sitting the entire time in their chambers and on the bench.”
The internship demanded of Rodriguez to perform a variety of legal tasks, including drafting memos and conducting legal research. While an intern for Judge Jenny Rivera of the New York State Court of Appeals, Rodriguez was able to conduct research for an important opinion concerning custody and visitation rights of unmarried same-sex couples.
“The opinion was regarding the definition of ‘parent’ as it applies to same-sex couples,” said Rodriguez. “The law had held that because one of the individuals was not a biological parent, she didn’t have rights to the child for visitation or custody. And now the Court of Appeals changed its definition of ‘parent’ to say that the term doesn’t require a biological attachment to the child for the individual to have standing.”
Rodriguez said that the internship also afforded her the valuable experience of forging personal connections within the Latino legal community, some of whose fame preceded them.
“I interned with Carmen Velasquez, the first Ecuadorian judge in New York State,” said Rodriguez. “I’m Ecuadorian, so in my country she’s famous. My entire family loves her. When they found out I was interning with her, they were going crazy.”
Rodriguez says that her status as an Ecuadorian immigrant motivated her initially to pursue a legal career within the immigration field, but the Latino Judges Association internship has widened the scope of her ambitions.
“Being in Family Court definitely made me consider that in my future career,” said Rodriguez. “I can picture myself helping women and children.”
Rodriguez offered encouragement to peers that might benefit from the Latino Judges Association program.
“I think especially for Latino minority students it’s a great opportunity for building a network of people who are interested in helping you,” she said. “And I think it will be an amazing opportunity for anyone interested in the law, period.”