Elizabeth Bowen 

Law and order—and legislative interns

In her brief professional career (she's only in her mid-30s) Elizabeth Bowen has served the public interest on nearly all sides of the law. She admits to being addicted to television crime dramas as a young girl and, from age 9, when she started participating in debate competitions, she knew "law school was always in the cards."

Following stints with a private law firm, as a prosecutor and writing legal opinions for the Idaho Industrial Commission, she joined the Idaho Legislature's Legislative Services Office, serving as a research analyst and helping craft proposed legislation for the Idaho departments of Health and Welfare, Medicaid, Workers' Compensation, Occupational Licensing and Insurance.

Talk a bit about working in criminal law. I'm presuming it's exhausting.

And heartbreaking. I was a prosecuting attorney for the city of Caldwell. One of the cases I had involved an infant killed in a car accident. It was an awful situation.

Did that drive a decision to look for a change?

I loved being in the courtroom, but I felt like I was there when things were already broken. It bothered me much more than I thought it would.

Which brings us to your joining the Legislative Service Offices.

In 2014. This is my second legislative session.

I'm assuming the number of bills is a fraction of the drafts of proposed legislation.

That's correct. We do a lot more drafts.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but most legislative drafts are not for public consumption and rarely see the light of day.

A lot of times, a legislator has an idea and they want to see what it looks like on paper but when they see the draft, they may realize it was not what they were looking for.

Let's talk about legislative interns, a program that you took over for the first time this year. I'm assuming you had your own internships that were positive.

I was an intern for then-Congressman Mike Crapo [now U.S. senator] and for Rudolph Giuliani when he was New York City mayor. I was also offered a White House internship that I really wanted to take.

Let me guess: One of your parents didn't want you to take it, correct?

Correct. It was for the Clinton administration, after the [Monica] Lewinsky scandal.

The Idaho Legislature has not been immune to scandal. It was just a few years ago when a state senator admitted to sexual harassment involving a staffer. How can you assure the public that interns are respected?

Words are cheap. We can say, "We're good people. Trust me." That's meaningless unless your behavior is consistent with that.

We're certainly familiar with interns serving political party leadership at the Statehouse or supporting legislative committees, but I was surprised to learn that LSO doesn't have its own interns.

So was I. Research and legislation would be a great place for interns, and a third-year law student could be helpful to drafters of legislation.

I know the legislative process may seem tedious to some young adults, but it's also a rare opportunity to witness history.

I think the mark of a great internship is that it can be a real cynicism killer. A good many people think politicians are in this for themselves, but when you live and work in this world, you see a lot of very bright, well-meaning people, trying to make things better.

Are you drawing intern candidates from across Idaho?

A good many of them are from Boise State, but if someone is going to come here from Pocatello or Moscow, they have to be able to afford living here in the Treasure Valley.

It sounds like you may have some ideas for the future. Do you plan on doing some more intern recruiting out of session?

That's something I would love to do, when I'm not researching and providing analysis for the next session. We're also working pretty hard when the Legislature isn't in session.

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