My Princeternship started off smoothly enough. The Los Angeles Metro—or at least the Gold Line—was much faster than I expected, and I arrived at City Hall half an hour early. When I tried to get into the building, however, I was horrified to realize that I had forgotten my passport—my only form of government issued I.D. Without my passport, I couldn’t even get a visitor’s pass, and I certainly couldn’t get fingerprinted! I panicked and retreated to the food court. Fortunately, my host, Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough ‘75, soon showed up, calmed me down, and got me into the building.
Marcia spent the next hour or so talking to me and Silvia—the other Princetern she was hosting—about her childhood in Taos, New Mexico, her time at Princeton, and her career at the City Attorney’s office. Marcia has been working at the City Attorney’s Office for over thirty years, in a number of different capacities, from prosecutor to counsel to the fire department. Right now she is working in the Municipal Advice Section, which means that she provides legal advice to the Los Angeles City counsel and other municipal entities.
One of Marcia’s primary responsibilities is advising the oversight committee for the ‘L.A. for Kids’ program. ‘L.A. for Kids’ receives $25 million each year through a special tax assessed on all properties in the city. This money is used to build parks and play areas for children. By law, projects built with this money need to meet certain requirements, and Marcia helps city agencies and nonprofits understand what they need to do to meet these often complex requirements.
Our conversation with Marcia was interrupted by a phone call: a city agency wanted advice regarding a possible conflict of interest. After answering the agency’s questions, Marcia took Silvia and I to lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Olvera street. On the way back to City Hall, she pointed out landmarks downtown. Then, after a tour of City Hall, we climbed to a balcony near the top of City Hall and saw the same landmarks from above. On the way, we ran into a councilman, Tom LaBonge, who was giving a tour to the Japanese consul general to Los Angeles. We went back to Marcia’s office, where we met other city attorney’s, including Phil Lam, the city’s intellectual property lawyer.
The next day, after I got fingerprinted and received a volunteer I.D., Silvia and I went to a city council meeting. Marcia had explained the agenda to us, so we were able to follow most of what was happening. Tom LaBonge, the council member we had met the day earlier, recognized us at the meeting. After the meeting, we went to lunch with Marcia in Little Tokyo, where, completely by chance, we met Charlie, a friend of Marcia’s. Charlie is a criminal defense attorney who takes only capital murder cases. After lunch, Charlie took us on a tour of the East Los Angeles Superior Court. We saw an arraignment, a prosecutor’s closing argument, and jury selection. In each court, Charlie explained what was happening to us.
On the morning of the last day of my Princeternship, Marcia gave Silvia and I several reports to read. The reports concerned the use of grant funds for the acquisition and development of property. The content of these reports is important because it is later used to support grant applications, and inconsistencies or errors in the reports can prevent projects from being funded. Marcia explained the comments she made on some of the reports, and then asked us to review two others for inconsistencies. After she discussed the reports with us, Marcia got a call she had been waiting for. The city agency that had called on the first day of the Princeternship called to get further advice on a contractor they believed might have a conflict of interest. Marcia explained that they were not prohibited from doing business with the client by municipal law under the circumstances, but could refuse if they thought it was too risky.
After she got off the phone, Marcia drove us to the Police Academy.
We ate lunch at a 50’s style diner, and then walked around the academy grounds. The area around the academy has been turned into a beautiful rock garden, with waterfalls, trees, and a meditation chapel. As we walked, Marcia explained the work she had done for the L.A.P.D. when she represented them.
We returned to the court house, hoping to continue watching one of the trials we had seen the day before. Unfortunately, the courtroom was empty, so we went to watch another trial. We saw a guilty verdict being read out, and then returned to Marcia’s office. There, we asked her a few more questions about her career, and she told us about her experience balancing her career with her family. We ended the day by going to a party where a judge who used to work in the City Attorney’s office was being honored by the Latino City Attorney’s Association. After the party, Silvia and I said goodbye to Marcia.
The last three days had been amazing. I have gotten to see how Marcia advised the city on legal issues, met attorneys practicing a number of different areas of law, and seen the city government and court system in action. I would definitely recommend anyone who wants to explore a career in law apply for this Princeternship if it is offered again in the future.