Madison Khorrami

Summer Job Diaries: Evening Student Explores Criminal Law and Litigation at Federal Public Defender's Office

SJD23 Madison Khorrami

Madison Khorrami '25, a JD Evening student, is spending her summer as a law clerk in the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender Office for the Central District of California. The unit pursues claims on behalf of clients on California's Death Row. She has worked as a law clerk at prominent L.A.-based criminal defense law firms. Additionally, she serves as a research assistant to Sean Kennedy, Kaplan & Feldman Executive Director of the Center for Juvenile Law & Policy and former Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California.

How did you land your summer job?

I came across the Federal Public Defender Office’s law clerk program on their website. Lucky enough for me, I was in a class taught by a current Supervising Deputy Federal Public Defender Joseph Trigilio, and I am a research assistant to former Federal Public Defender Sean Kennedy. They both encouraged me to apply. I worked to make my application materials as strong as I could and submitted them by email as early as possible, as the FPDO accepts applications on a rolling basis. Following an interview with the attorneys who run the program, I was notified I had earned the position, and the rest is history!

What is the most interesting part of your job?

The most interesting part of my job is reviewing cases that were initially tried years ago that are riddled with misconduct and procedural errors and determining how these issues can be addressed and overcome. As a history major, I love research and getting to go down the rabbit hole with legal research and social history. This job has provided me with the ability to do that while still working toward my passion: helping people.

What has been your most challenging assignment thus far?

All the assignments are challenging in some way, but the most challenging aspects are the subject matter and knowing what each client has at risk: their life. Of course, it can be difficult to read through the details of the alleged crimes, but what is most challenging is seeing the injustices our clients have had to endure through their trials and incarceration. My experiences at the FPDO this summer have highlighted how unjust our criminal justice system is and has helped cement my interest in criminal defense.

What new legal skill have you acquired during your summer job?

I have been able to strengthen my research skills and learn how to write a claim for a habeas corpus petition. Additionally, I have learned the ins-and-outs of habeas corpus litigation, both state and federal. The FPDO law clerk program is set up with so many training sessions and provides the law clerks with numerous opportunities to learn from and observe the attorneys in the unit.

What bit of legal knowledge have you been able to display?

Through my time at Loyola, specifically with courses like the Habeas Corpus Litigation Seminar and Criminal Procedure, and my extensive time spent at a criminal defense firm, I have developed a wide range of knowledge regarding civil rights litigation, criminal defense, and habeas corpus litigation. This knowledge has allowed me to better understand how our criminal justice system works and where its weaknesses are, which has provided me with a great base to build upon during my time at the FPDO.

How has Loyola helped you map your career path?

Loyola has helped me map my career path by showing me all the opportunities that are available in the realm of criminal law. With the help of incredible professors such as Sean Kennedy, Joseph Trigilio, and Eleanor Miller, I have discovered many ways in which I can help people through criminal defense and post-conviction work. There are more opportunities to help people in criminal law than I would have imagined prior to starting law school.