New CCJ graduate Myranda Hogg settling into role at Federal Public Defender’s Office

by | Aug 15, 2023

Hogg began working as a legal administrative assistant in May and completed her master's degree in criminology and criminal justice this month.
Myranda Hogg standing in front of the UMSL sign on the wall of the Recreation and Wellness Center

Myranda Hogg completed UMSL’s master’s program in criminology and criminal justice this month and is working as a legal administrative assistant in the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri. (Photo by Steve Walentik)

Myranda Hogg went to the UMSL Triton Store earlier this summer to shop for diploma frames, and she walked out with one featuring the official seal of the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

This month, she completed her coursework to earn her master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice, and she’s looking forward to getting her diploma in the mail so she can put it on display.

“I’ve never spent that much money on a frame in my life,” Hogg said. “It definitely means a lot.”

Of course, Hogg might have already received the biggest prize she’d been hoping for from the master’s program earlier this year when she landed a job as a legal administrative assistant in the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.

That was on her mind when she made the decision to enroll in graduate school in 2021 and why she willingly packed her nights with classes and studying over the past two years while working full-time as a paralegal at the O’Rourke Law Firm LLC.

“I came to UMSL because I knew that to go federal, you almost always need a higher level of education,” Hogg said.

Ideal preparation

The lessons Hogg learned in the criminology and criminal justice master’s program proved immediately beneficial in her professional life.

“The professors are really great,” she said. “They are extremely intelligent. That was very noticeable to me right off the bat, and my writing got significantly better, which is very important. Even though academic writing and legal writing are different, they cross over enough that it improved my legal writing and presentations.”

Hogg, who received the Edward Longinette Scholarship and the Criminal Justice Scholarship during her time at UMSL, impressed her professors with how she was able to relate what she was learning to her work experience.

“She asked really thoughtful questions, clearly engaging with the material on a theoretical level, but was also interested in thinking about its implications for practice,” said Associate Professor Marisa Omori, who taught Hogg in multiple courses, including “Race and Punishment” and “Law and Social Control.” “She frequently would bring up her experiences as a paralegal and as someone who is from the St. Louis area to talk about the more abstract ideas we were addressing in class. She would often reflect critically about the criminal legal system and the potential inequalities that it produced across communities.”

Her coursework, on top of the training she received from criminal defense attorney Paul O’Rourke on an array of tasks, made her a strong candidate for the Federal Public Defender’s Office when an opportunity opened this spring.

“I felt more prepared than I ever had for an interview,” Hogg said. “I thought I did well, and I obviously did because they offered me the job. I was over the moon.”

Hogg has been getting acclimated to the differences between federal and state case law, from technical issues like how to e-file documents in the federal systems to the nuances of federal statutes and court rules, which tend to be more formal. She equated it to the difference between a fencing match and a bar fight.

She’s also been working on a variety of cases – everything from a felon in possession of a firearm to drug trafficking cases, car jackings and sex crimes. They can involve some grim circumstances and fact patterns.

“My job description includes answering calls from clients who are detained,” Hogg said. “Either they’re in pretrial detention, or they’re incarcerated at the Bureau of Prisons, and there are things they tell me that are really heavy. I don’t know if I just compartmentalize it well, or if I just know that what I’m doing is part of their constitutional right to counsel. It’s helping at least protect their rights.

“It’s challenging, but I enjoy helping others, and in a lot of ways, these are people that need help the most in our society. Whether they’re guilty or innocent – not the point. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”

Drawn to the law

Hogg always felt herself fascinated by and drawn to the criminal justice system while growing up in O’Fallon, Missouri. She remembers being 9 or 10 and dressing up as a homicide detective for Halloween, and even today she enjoys watching true crime shows – even if she’s apt to scrutinize the legal issues as they’re presented.

Hogg also feels a lot of empathy for defendants and those close to them. She has a family member who was a convicted felon, incarcerated years before she was born, but she saw the lingering impact it had on her family.

“When you have a criminal record, it’s harder to gain employment,” she said. “When you’re incarcerated, you also experience trauma. Whether it’s deserved trauma or not depends on who you ask, but it really affects people’s lives – and particularly the family of the person who was incarcerated. I don’t think everyone considers that piece.”

Hogg is a first-generation college student, so she didn’t have footsteps to follow after earning her diploma at Fort Zumwalt North. Pell Grant-eligible, she enrolled at St. Charles Community College to pursue an associate degree.

Hogg didn’t have a particular academic focus in mind when she started at SCCC, but she found herself using all her electives on courses in criminology and criminal justice.

“I really liked them, so I just kept taking them,” Hogg said. “They had the same couple of professors, so you develop a relationship with them, and they were always telling me that I needed to go into the field. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Hogg ultimately decided to major in criminal justice at Lindenwood University. It offered her the ability to take courses at night so she could work and, perhaps more importantly, it was the closest option to home and work.

Soon after starting at Lindenwood, she landed an internship in O’Rourke’s office and turned that into a full-time position as a legal secretary and later a paralegal.

“I’m very grateful to him because he trained me more like an associate attorney and less like support staff,” Hogg said.

She worked for O’Rourke throughout her time at Lindenwood and continuing after her graduation in 2019.

Motivated to do more

Hogg remains grateful for the experience she had working for O’Rourke, but she sometimes felt dispirited when she’d have to turn away potential clients because they didn’t have the financial resources to cover the costs of representation.

“I talked to my boss at length,” she said. “We were pretty much friends at this point, and he said, ‘I think that public defender is probably where your heart is.’”

With an eye on a position in the federal office, she made the decision to seek her master’s degree in 2021, and she really only considered UMSL because of the strong national reputation of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, which was No. 11 nationally in the most recent U.S. News & World Report “Best Graduate Schools” rankings.

It was difficult juggling work and school once again, particularly with the amount of reading that comes with graduate-level work. She hasn’t had much time for socializing, but it’s all been worth it.

“I was really excited to hear when she got her job because it was a goal of hers,” Omori said. “I think that she was able to really capitalize on her prior work experience as well as her education here to not only be able to get the job, but I think she’ll be able to apply both her work and educational experiences to her new position.”

Hogg isn’t exactly sure how she’s going to handle the extra free time in her schedule with her graduate studies behind her. She’s never really had her evenings not planned out for her. She’s looking forward to it, but she hasn’t ruled out one day returning to school to pursue a law degree.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens
Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.