My Experience as a Federal Trial Court Paralegal in U.S. District Court

Federal Trial Court Paralegal Duties I Performed While Actually Sitting at the Counsel Table During Trial:

Recently I gained bankable real world experience as a Federal trial court paralegal while sitting at the counsel table for two United States District Court trials. The first was a police misconduct case in Riverside working for an attorney representing the plaintiff in a police misconduct case. The second was working for a well-known former LA County prosecutor defending in a Medicare fraud case. Some of the tasks that I executed were; draft special jury instructions, summaries of witnesses and PowerPoint for closing argument, and operate theCourt’s Elmo overhead projector. 

In both federal trial courts I operated the court’s multi-media system and Elmo overhead projector, prepared jury instructions, took notes on witness testimony, drafted impeachment questions while listening to the witness, and prepared a PowerPoint presentation for use in counsel’s closing argument.

Counsel Should Not Stretch Court Deadlines to the Last Minute

In the Medicare fraud case the attorney I was working for did everything at the last minute. In both my of my federal trial court assignments counsel were over reliant upon multi-media presentation of evidence to advocate the case. Multi-media presentations for the jury did not work in either federal trial courts. Using technology on weak evidence does not give the evidence more persuasive power. 

Federal Trial Court Blow-Ups

In the first trial a blow-up of a Google map was used by the attorney to show how far plaintiff had to walk after the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department made him leave a golf tournament at a country club. The plaintiff was drunk and disorderly and the Sheriffs’ told him he had to leave, and that they would give plaintiff a ride back to his hotel. Plaintiff refused the offer of a ride from the police and walked the 1.8 miles back to his hotel. He then later filed a lawsuit alleging police misconduct. The jury in the federal trial court decided a verdict against plaintiff and in favor of the law enforcement officers.

In the second federal trial court the attorney I was working for retained my federal paralegal services two days before the trial date. The lawyer wanted me to come up with special jury instructions regarding safe harbor for employees of a Medicare durable medical equipment provider (DME). The law says that if a DME keeps detailed records and informs Medicare that a DME provider is paying doctors for referrals then that employee is in a safe harbor and cannot be prosecuted under strict Medicare anti-kickback laws. Our defendant did not keep the detailed records and the US Department of Justice attorneys were able to successfully keep my last minute jury instructions from being submitted to the jury. 

The most valuable paralegal service I provided during trial was to listen to the government witnesses and draft on-the-spot impeachment questions and hand them to the attorneys while they were standing at the podium asking that witness questions.

Federal Trial Court Exhibit Presentations

Defense counsel also had me prepare a PowerPoint presentation for his closing argument which we submitted the day before trial. The government prosecutors were also able to keep the PowerPoint out of the trial. Good thing we did not use that PowerPoint. Instead I manually placed our exhibits on the federal trial courtroom Elmo overhead projector as the attorney was giving his closing argument. My live courtroom presentation working in tandem with the attorney’s closing argument worked much better than death by PowerPoint.  

The defense attorneys attempt to present a trial theme and story of an entrepreneur who made a mistake and not a criminal act worked better without the PowerPoint. The federal trial court closing argument was compelling without relying on technology. 

The problem in both of my federal trial court assignments was that both of the clients I was working for were the bad actors in the proceedings. The facts and evidence were against them and the juries found in favor of the other side. The moral of the story is that a federal trial court paralegal is only as good as the attorneys and clients that the paralegal works for. The attorneys in both cases should have each brought me into the trial preparation much sooner. There really was no trial preparation. I am a very experienced federal trial court paralegal now and I can really help attorneys and small law firms out in preparing their federal trial court cases. However the lawyer must retain me early on in the case to be effective.  

federal trial court paralegal working remotely
Federal trial court paralegal Dean McAdams working remotely.

By Dean McAdams

Born a poor peckerwood in a Tujunga holler, Dean overeducated himself beyond his social station to end up a retired paralegal in the coastal paradise of West L.A.