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STOCKTON, CA - If some of the attorneys handling misdemeanors in the Stockton courthouse look really, really young, it's because they are.

The San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office is using eight volunteers, four of them current students and four of them recent graduates, to handle minor cases.

"This has been the single best experience of my career," saidthird-year law student Greg Porter.

Some common misdemeanors are trespassing, vandalism, and driving under the influence. The San Joaquin County district attorney used to have 12 full-time employees do that work, but severe budget cuts reduced that staffing to two. Volunteers are filling in the gap.

"We have a student -- she's not here this summer, she's studying to take the bar -- she's done 10 misdemeanor trials. That's a wealth of experience," said supervisor Kevin Ford.

For Porter, the move from class to court has been startling.

"In law school, I read thousands of pages to learn principles. There are no face[s], victims or children. Here I started with domestic violence, sensitive issues.You felt the weight, and the responsibility," said Porter.

One of the volunteers has already finished law school and passed the bar. For Heath Wilding, working for free isn't what he had planned.

"It's a little frustrating to be honest. I'd like to get paid for the work, but it's fulfilling getting this experience," said Wilding.

by tdaly@news10.net

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