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A Summer Gig at the Courthouse: Alyssa Miller Shares her Experience


Alyssa Miller’s summer gig wasn’t spent working at a coffee shop, though lots of caffeine was probably involved. It wasn’t spent working at the library either – though research played a big role in her responsibilities. Miller’18 spent the summer working under Judge Melissa Powers, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division.  Miller’s experience gave her insight into juvenile law, society, and the way the legal system affects vulnerable youth.

Miller explains that she was responsible for reviewing and presenting to Judge Powers “what happened at the lower levels of the court.”  Most juvenile cases are handled before a magistrate.   These are usually “cases in dependency, child custody, child support, and juvenile delinquency.”  The magistrate’s initial opinion can, however, meet an objection, and then these cases are bound for Judge Powers’ court.  “My job,” Miller says “was to read the transcripts and let the judge in on what happened in the transcript and in the lower court so that she could make an informed decision when hearing oral arguments.”

Miller expresses that she is glad to have taken UC’s Family Law course.  Through her studies she “learned a lot about custody, child support, and how the law works in those circumstances.”  Although she was unfamiliar with delinquency when she began the job, the Advanced Legal Research course proved useful, she says.  Completing the course gave her the skill set to research fields that were new to her. 

Miller’s work was not limited to the courtroom, however.  The Juvenile Court and Cincinnati Public Schools initiated a collaboration this summer to offer tutoring programs for children held in detention.  Miller continues to visit and help teach these youths multiple times each week.

“I work with juvenile delinquents in the female division,” says Miller.  She not only assists them with their homework but also offers substantive advice to help the detained youths better themselves.  She states, “It’s been a very positive experience to meet these young women and realize that they’re not bad people.  They come from bad circumstances—circumstances that you can’t even believe exist, and yet they still have positive outlooks on life.”

Miller believes that society experiences cycles of poverty and violence and that education is the key to reducing violent crime.  She explains that for young offenders, “it’s hopefully not too late for them to turn their lives around, before they enter the adult system. 

After completing her studies at Cincinnati Law, Miller aims to become an assistant United States Attorney.  She says that this has been her goal since the age of three, “although she didn’t know what it was called then.  I learned [the title] when I was seven, and I’ve been set on it ever since.”  With her experience at the Juvenile Court, she is on the right track.

by: Pete Mills, Cincinnati Law writer