Federal judges and volunteer attorneys are engaging with local high school students in courtrooms and classrooms both virtually and in-person to heighten awareness of the importance of civil discourse and the role of the courts in daily life this Constitution Day, Sept. 17, and throughout the year.
“Well-informed students, who naturally have their own perspectives and questions are vital to maintaining a rule of law culture that respects and protects their Constitutional rights in practical, but unnoticed ways every day,” said Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who is participating virtually in a national civics education program ahead of Constitution Day.
One example of a civics education program being presented by judges is Civil Discourse and the Constitution: Candid Conversations. During a 50-minute class period, judges create a welcoming environment for a variety of law-related civics questions. An interactive question-and-answer session gives participants the opportunity to practice civil discourse skills when discussing topics of concern to them. Local Federal Bar Association (FBA) chapters and volunteer attorneys are assisting judges in this civics effort nationwide.
“Civil discourse and clear communication are legal skills and life skills that equip young people to navigate difficult situations and make sound decisions,” said U.S District Judge Rodney Smith, of the Southern District of Florida, who will host students from three South Florida high schools in his Fort Lauderdale courtroom. “Judges and attorneys can bring attention to civility and communication skills that are required in courtrooms and have applications in every aspect of life, from classrooms to dining rooms to board rooms, and judges are happy to share these practices.”
For information about scheduling a classroom visit, contact Rebecca Fanning, the national educational outreach manager for the federal courts at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, [email protected].
Upcoming Civics Education Programs in September
Charleston, South Carolina
The Candid Conversations program is scheduled on Sept. 14, ahead of the annual FBA conference in Charleston. The local federal court and area FBA chapters are partnering with the Charleston County School District to hold a Civics Day event that will deploy teams of judges and attorneys to 10 high schools to answer students’ questions about the courts and careers in the law. The program encourages young people to take a greater interest in the legal system while also elevating their civil discourse skills.
St. Louis, Missouri
More than 50 students from Cape Central High School, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, will participate in a Candid Conversations program with U.S. District Chief Judge Rodney W. Sippel on Sept. 14, at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis. Students also will tour the courthouse and the Judicial Learning Center.
On Sept. 16, U.S. Magistrate Judge Faruqui will explore the role of the rule of law in a virtual program with students in their classrooms across the country. The program is part of a day-long event produced by Street Law, Inc. called Rule of Law for All: Teach-In. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions of Judge Faruqui and a panel of legal experts on the relevance of the rule of law to teens and the public.
Volunteer attorneys and judges are making virtual presentations to high school students in 210 classes throughout the state on Sept. 16. They will hold question-and-answer discussions about various constitutional amendments. The program is coordinated by the Law-Related Education Department of the State Bar of Texas.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
On Sept. 20, Judge Smith will host 44 local high school students in his courtroom for a Candid Conversations program to bring attention to the importance of civil discourse skills and to answer questions about the Constitution, the courts, and the justice system.
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