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Arianna Beltrez ’19 is unequivocal about her goals. Self-described as "obsessed with the courtroom," the third-year Albany Law School student is focused on a career in prosecution; sex-crimes prosecution to be specific.
She is setting herself up well. Arianna is in her second semester with the
Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic (DVPH), part of the law school's
Law Clinic and Justice Center that assists local Special Victim's Units with domestic violence and sexual assault cases. And this past summer she interned at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, where she was assigned to the Special Victim's Bureau.
Arianna's interest in prosecution goes back to her childhood in Brooklyn. Two of her close relatives were detectives with the New York Police Department, and she grew increasingly fascinated by their stories, especially the ones about working with lawyers on their testimonies for trial.
"I always wanted to be a prosecutor. It's the ultimate form of public service," Arianna said. "The idea of wearing the white hat appeals to me: seeking justice for your community on all sides."
Arianna was assigned to the Albany County District Attorney's Office last spring through the DVPH.
She learned the ins and outs of SVU prosecution through the Clinic's classroom component and her field experience.
"It was just incredible," she said. "I was supervised by the bureau chief of the Special Victim's Unit, Shannon Sarfoh, and our seminars with Professor [Mary] Lynch played off of the work I was doing for the D.A.'s office: helping with arraignments, bail proceedings, plea negotiations, all of that.
"The DVPH has reaffirmed where I've been heading during my law school career."
This past summer, interning at the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, Arianna assisted with misdemeanor and felony sex-driven crimes. Her work involved responding to motions, filing motions, and interviewing witnesses. "One of the senior ADAs there, Lauren Silver, really took me under her wing. She would pull me in to talk about everything, from figuring out an appropriate plea to how to respond to a phone call from a defense attorney."
While in the city Arianna was in regular contact with Brooklyn ADA Adriele Douglas ’17, a DVPH alumna. "She was amazing," Arianna said. "We got to spend some time together, and she was a good mentor."
While Arianna hopes eventually to work at a Special Victim's Bureau, she plans to begin her career in more of a generalized role. "I think it's important to get a variety of experience which can be applied to the specialization."
Arianna also is passionate about helping the immigrant and refugee community. She interned with the
Immigration Law Clinic as a 2L, and has for the past two years
served as director of Project Totem, an independent public service organization that recruits students from Albany Law School and the University at Albany to serve as translators for the Immigration Law Clinic, The Legal Project, and Prisoners' Legal Services.
"It's great that we have these local organizations, including the Clinic, assisting people who are pursuing legal status," Arianna said. "And we can help as students—that's huge."
Arianna recommends that students who are interested in public service—be it prosecution, immigrant rights, nonprofit advocacy, or anything in between—get involved with the Law Clinic and Justice Center.
"The Clinic is my second home," she said. "It's been incredible. I still keep in touch with my first client ever. We are helping real people and making a difference in the community. It's fulfilling, and it's rewarding."