Prior to beginning any judicial internship or clerkship--or even before applying to work for a judge--students should become acquainted with the structure and basic operations of a court. Most courts publish an operations manual, such as the Florida Supreme Court's Manual of Internal Operating Procedures, that will explain the basic duties of the courts' employees.
Research when working at a court is not fundamentally different from the research you learn in law school or while working for a firm; however, the caseloads of the federal courts have been increasing significantly in recent years, leading judges to rely on precise and quick assistance from their interns and clerks. The pandemic has sparked a great deal of change in internal operating procedures and expanded remote court appearances.
Clerks usually publish statistics of the workload and closure rates for their courts, broken down by case type. It may be helpful to orient yourself to the general workload of your court before you begin working.
One of the most basic places to start is with the court's procedural rules.
There are many secondary sources for model jury instructions. Although the State of Florida has an official set of standard jury instructions for criminal and civil cases, not every case matches the standard. You may need to branch into the unofficial model instructions.
A docket shows all the materials filed in a court case in chronological order. If a case is currently in litigation, the docket sheet shows the progress of the case. If a case is closed, the docket serves as a table of contents listing all the pleadings and filings. Some individual courts have access to dockets online, but availability varies. If there is no public access to dockets online or if the docket is for a historical case you may have to look in a databases or call the specific court. It helps to know party names and docket numbers before calling or searching.
The transition over the past ~30 years from paper filings delivered in quadriplicate to the courthouse towards a unified online filing system has been one of the best steps forward for access to justice. Libraries and courts have been working for decades to digitize and publish older court materials.
Information about how a judge generally rules on motions or issues can be invaluable to attorneys. It can also be an excellent source of background information before a student begins working at a court. A number of databases collect information about cases and filings, then link that information to individual judges.
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