Externship Profile: Charleston County Public Defender’s Office

The desire to gain real-world experience and learn fundamental tasks such as starting a case file, filing a motion and discovery procedures are what led Stefan B. Feidler, 3L, to an externship with the Charleston County Public Defender’s Office.

While the summer position is technically a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, he arrives early and stays late every day. He is inspired and motivated by the attorneys around him who continue to work hard.

“Working here has taught me a lot about these attorneys and their case loads. I am amazed at how much they do themselves. I have learned the importance and hard work of public defenders and that clients, though accused are not always guilty,” said Feidler.

“Working at the Public Defender’s office for people who cannot afford an attorney directly correlates with Charleston School of Law’s mission of public service. Public Defenders strive to ensure the protection of due process rights while maintaining a respectful name within the judiciary. While budgets are based on strict State funding, these attorneys continue to give it their all for the clients’ cause and I believe Charleston School of Law represents that,” said Feidler.

A typical day for Feidler involves memo and research writing, client interviews and other tasks relating to discovery. Interviewing those accused of murder or attempted murder at the jail on a regular basis has been quite a unique experience. Additionally, he gets the opportunity to sit in on court proceedings for drug court, mental health court, transfer court and plea bargaining. It was during these proceedings that he learned the importance of always being on time, showing the court and clerks the upmost respect, and keeping cell phones turned off.

Thus far, the motion hearing for a double-attempted murder was his most interesting experience.  “We had a Castle Doctrine Motion, which allows a person who lawfully uses deadly force to be immune from criminal prosecution. I learned a lot during that motion hearing. The Castle Doctrine states that a person’s home is his castle, and so allows the use of deadly force if certain criteria are met. The issue the Judge brought up in our Motion was the fact that our client was engaged in an unlawful act; thus, the Motion was denied. Still, it was an extremely interesting set of facts and we are still diligently working hard for our client’s interest,” said Feidler.

In addition to the criminal law and evidence classes taken at the School, Fiedler says that serving as editor-in-chief of Resolved: Journal of Alternative Dispute Resolution is extremely helpful with the amount of memo writing that he must complete daily.

Feidler is a native of Myrtle Beach, S.C. and received his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina. After college he went back to school to become a certified paralegal, which led to enrollment at the Charleston School of Law.

Charleston School of Law’s externship program allows students to gain practical work experience while earning course credit. Students complement their classroom studies by working under the direct supervision of members of the judiciary or attorneys in the public sector. This summer, Charleston School of Law students are at 35 exciting externships sites helping the community. Since fall 2006, Charleston School of Law students have completed approximately 82, 114 externship hours. The externship course is offered during the fall, spring and summer terms. For more information please contact Professor James Klein or Autumn Jones.

Story by: Alexis Economy
Photos by: Graham Ervin