Interning at Federal Court

By: Anna Carmichael,  A&S Communications
June 27, 2016

Ever since studying the Supreme Court’s ruling in Worcester v. Georgia in seventh grade, Christopher Arce ‘19 has been passionate about government and the law.

“This conflicting case instilled in me a desire to better understand our government, and how the government and the law can be used as a catalyst for progress, even with a potential for regress,” Arce said. This case was between Mr. Worcester, a missionary who was asked by the state to move from land that was labeled “Indian territory” and refused. Mr. Worcester filed the case because he stated that the state of Georgia lacked jurisdiction to regulate access to U.S. citizens, only the federal government could do that. The case’s verdict stated that the only government that could deal with Native American tribes was the Federal Government.

This summer, Arce is an intern at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in White Plains. U.S. Federal Courts have jurisdiction over litigation that involves the Constitution of the United States.

“For a student who is interested in how the government and the law come together to impact someone’s rights, this experience is priceless,” Arce said.

Arce explained that through his internship he has come to understand that laws never stop evolving. Courts continue to grapple with questions raised by laws and continue to refine and re-evaluate those answers.

“Sometimes we see a total overhauling of what used to be the standard, and sometimes the standard is upheld entirely. It’s an incredible, intriguing process of evolution that I am still learning to better understand everyday,” Arce said.

He hopes to learn more and understand what causes change in Federal law and protocol concerning protecting people’s rights, so that he can help create change in areas where it’s needed.

Arce is interning with a judge who is presiding on trial, so he spends a lot of time observing the trial, which “has been remarkably formative,” Arce said, “because I have been able to better understand the role of the judge as an arbitrator of the law, the role of the jury as an arbitrator of fact and how to effectively question a witness from the plaintiff’s side during direct examination and how the defendant can counter these points during a cross examination.”

When Arce is not observing trial, he spends time doing legal research by comparing different cases, organizing complaints and motions, writing legal memorandums, and outlining cases relevant to the cases that the Court takes.

At Cornell, Arce writes for Cornell Claritas, an ecumenical, interdenominational Christian publication on campus and, the Cornell International Affairs Society Digest. He is also a Cornell Faith and Action Community Service Leader, a member of  Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Committee, Student Assembly City and Local Affairs Committee, Beta Theta Pi, the Puerto Rican Student Association, the Inter-Fraternity Council’s Publicity Committee, and the Tri-Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

“My liberal arts education in the College of Arts and Sciences has undoubtedly allowed me to become a better critical thinker, a better advocate, a better student, and a better person,” Arce said.

Arce plans to attend law school after graduation and wants to use the law to better protect the rights of others and advocate for governmental reform.

“While [my internship] has certainly been challenging, I have already learned so much and my desire to go into law after Cornell has only been solidified,” Arce explained.

Anna Carmichael ‘18 is a communications assistant for The College of Arts and Sciences.  

Christopher Arce '19

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