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Joseph Cotilletta '11 hits the ground running as intern with Queens County DA's Office

Imagine it’s your first day of work with the Queens County District Attorney’s office in New York. Your supervisor waves you over as you meet him for the first time in the courtroom. As he’s introducing himself, he picks up a case file and tells you to make an appearance in court and negotiate a plea offer before the judge. The most frightening part about it is that you’re not the new assistant district attorney; you’re a law student on the first day of your summer internship.

This was Joseph Cotilletta’s experience on his first day as an intern with the Queens County District Attorney’s office. Every day he was held to the standards of an assistant district attorney, but had the experience level of a second year law student. “My responsibilities were like any new ADA in the Bureau and I was expected to learn quickly,” said Cotilletta.

And learn quickly he did. After five weeks, Cotilletta was no longer the nervous and inexperienced intern that he was on his first day in court. Cotilletta negotiated plea offers, interviewed complainants and police officers, and compiled cases on defendants. He also handled a case from start to finish and successfully convicted the defendant based on a plea offer he arranged.

Cotilletta worked in one of the largest DA’s offices in New York. The Criminal Court Bureau alone has more than thirty ADAs who handle thousands of trials each year. Given this caseload, Cotilletta was expected to keep up with his superiors and take on new and different responsibilities every day.

A satisfying feeling

Cotilletta earned an undergraduate degree in business administration from Bryant University. When he came to Penn State, Cotilletta intended to explore a career in business law. His new internship, however, broadened his perspective on the legal profession. “For me, there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction at the end of the day when I know that my work benefits society, makes the community safer, and provides closure to victims. Working at the DA’s office has given true meaning to my work.”

Cotilletta says that his experience as an associate editor for the Penn State International Law Review helped hone his legal writing skills. “With the amount of work we have as associate editors throughout the year, writing a motion for the court came easily.”

He also credits several of his law professors, who he says were instrumental in his preparedness. “I would not have been as prepared for this internship without the help of Professor Kinports in criminal law, Professor Gildin in criminal procedure, and Professor Vollmer, who helped me improve my writing and oral advocacy skills in our legal writing course.”

Cotilletta's internship taught him lessons that could not be learned from a textbook — lessons that he will carry on throughout the remainder of his education and his legal career. “I really feel like I’ve made a difference in the office and in the community. Hopefully my contributions have helped to make Queens county a safer place."

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