In celebration of Law Day, federal judges are hosting programs in May and throughout the year to give students real-life experience with civil discourse and solid decision-making skills.
“This is a no-cost program that has a high impact on students, not only in teaching life skills they can use every day, but in providing the opportunity to have a positive interaction with judges, lawyers, and the justice system,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald, who has hosted the program in his Tucson, Arizona, courtroom for many years.
The national Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions program, is a natural tie-in with the American Bar Association’s 2023 Law Day theme, “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.” Celebrated on May 1 and throughout the month, Law Day has been a part of American legal culture since President Eisenhower established it in 1958 to celebrate the rule of law in a free society.
During these three-hour programs presided over by federal judges, participants practice civil discourse and decision-making skills in lively courtroom simulations coached by attorney volunteers. The activity centers on mock jury deliberations, during which students consider First Amendment and Fourth Amendment cases that are argued by student attorneys. The student jurors use civil discourse skills as they analyze the legal issues.
Today, the court program is active in almost every Circuit across the country. Judges estimate that they’ve reached more than 3,000 students since beginning the national initiative in 2017.
Judges say it’s clear from the students’ written feedback that they leave the program with sharpened civics, civility, and collaboration skills. Participants also say that the program gives them in-person exposure to careers in the courts.
As high school student Emilio Difilippantonio wrote: “I’m not sure whether I want to study law or science, but I’m positive that a functional knowledge of law and civics will benefit me greatly in life and allow me to help advance society towards a more just and equitable future.”
To find a program at a nearby federal courthouse, contact the federal courts’ national educational outreach manager, Rebecca Fanning. Visit the educational resources section for additional programs and activities.
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