As a public defender, the Class of 2016 alum hopes to advocate for criminal justice reform.
After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont, where he majored in economics and political science, John Sadek (’16) entered Boston University School of Law determined to work in public service. Attracted by the Criminal Law Clinical Program, Sadek matriculated at BU Law and began his journey.
Today, he is a public defender with the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), which provides appointed counsel in a variety of proceedings, such as district court cases, superior court cases, children and family, as well as juvenile cases. Sadek handles district court criminal cases, which include both felonies and misdemeanors.
BU Law’s clinical offerings were the key factor for Sadek as he decided where to attend law school. “The clinical programs are strong, and it was something that I was very interested in doing,” he says. “BU gave me more opportunities to pursue my interests in a way that would help my career following graduation.”
In the summer after his second year, Sadek earned an Altarescu Public Interest Summer Fellowship to intern with the Bronx Defenders in New York City. The fellowships, generously funded by a BU Law alum, are awarded each summer to support BU Law students working with public interest organizations. Sadek obtained the internship through the Massachusetts Law Consortium interview program, which BU Law organizes in concert with other area law schools. “I interned in the criminal defense practice,” Sadek says. “I worked directly under two lawyers, one who primarily handled homicides and other felonies, and one who primarily handled misdemeanors. I assisted on cases, wrote memos, handled intakes, and observed court.”
While participating in the Criminal Law Clinical Program as a 3L, Sadek had the opportunity to argue a criminal defense case before the Massachusetts Appeals Court, an experience which helped hone his oral advocacy skills. “While I didn’t win, it was an amazing experience,” he says. “I spent a significant amount of time researching and writing for the case. I learned about appellate procedure, and got the chance to actually do the oral argument in front of a three-judge panel. I had clinic professors and outside appellate attorneys help me prepare for the oral argument by doing mock oral arguments and having them critique me. Really that was probably the best clinic experience I had because it was the result of over a year of my own work.”
These experiences allowed Sadek to step into his current role with CPCS with confidence. “Most public defender agencies want people who can hit the ground running and start taking cases pretty much immediately,” he says. His three semesters with the Criminal Law Clinic, along with his two summers working with public defender agencies, allowed him to do just that.
Sadek has a passion for promoting racial justice, ending mass incarceration, and relieving the burden the criminal justice system places on the poor. Though in the future he hopes to get more involved in policy initiatives targeting criminal justice reform, he wants to continue carrying a caseload and advocating for his clients in court. “One of the reasons I got into public defense in the first place is because I think people have a right to an attorney and the right to a good attorney,” Sadek says. “I think it shouldn’t matter whether or not you make a lot of money and have the resources to retain a private lawyer. The assigned attorney that you receive should be just as competent and zealous as any other lawyer when your liberty is on the line.”