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Penn State Law student wins bail hearing, gets client released from jail

Bail hearings are often difficult to argue successfully and win—making it all the more impressive when Beth Ramos did exactly that.
Penn State Law student Beth Ramos

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When Penn State Law student Beth Ramos stood in front of a local magistrate to argue a bail hearing as part of the law school’s Indigent Criminal Justice Practicum, she knew the facts of her case backwards and forward.

She’d met with her client earlier that morning, who was sitting in jail on a $50,000 secured bail for three alleged misdemeanors and a summary offense.

“I was nervous, because I knew how much this hearing meant to him, and because making your case in front of a judge is a very unique experience,” Ramos said. “You have to be able to adapt and respond to what they say, tailor your argument, and be ready to respond to the other side.”

Casey McClain, a Penn State Law adjunct professor, Centre County public defender, and supervisor of the criminal defense practicum, said bail hearings are often difficult to argue successfully and win—making it all the more impressive when Ramos did exactly that.

Ramos successfully argued that her client’s bail was excessive for his misdemeanor charges, that he was unlikely to leave the area to avoid future court proceedings, and that he should be released on a lower unsecured bail.

“This was the first bail argument that I’ve won, so I was thrilled at the outcome,” Ramos said. “For me, this was a huge win because I knew what a big deal it was to the client.”

In addition to simply knowing the facts of the case, Ramos also had to respond to arguments from the district attorney’s office, which attempted to argue that her client should not be released, and answer questions from the magistrate about her client’s case and personal history. According to McClain, it’s these kinds of off-the-cuff questions that can be the most challenging part of a hearing, as they’re often not something for which an attorney can fully prepare.

“That’s something that can’t be scripted, and can’t really be taught,” McClain said. “But Beth showed quick thinking and real skill, and did a superb job with a difficult case. I’m very proud of her.”

For Ramos, this victory is a validation of her personal and professional goals. Originally a student of biology as an undergraduate, Ramos decided to come to law school because she wanted to make a career out of helping others—with the hope of someday going into public defense.

“Being a part of this practicum has been an incredible experience,” Ramos said. “Participating in real cases and working on behalf of our clients has given me a chance to find my voice as an attorney and hone my skills in a practical, meaningful way.”

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