Maine high court to bring justice to high schools

Posted Oct. 20, 2008, at 9:43 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:17 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court hits the road Wednesday in what has become its annual fall sojourn to high schools around the state.

The seven justices will hear oral arguments in three different cases at each school, convening during the morning hours in towns from York to Washington counties.

Their first stop will be at Sanford High School on Wednesday. Their last will be on Thursday, Oct. 30, at Shead High School in Eastport.

In between those dates, the justices will be at Cony High School in Augusta on Monday, Oct. 27, at Winthrop High School on Tuesday, Oct. 28, and at Bangor High School on Wednesday, Oct. 29.

The court holds most of its sessions at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland with a visit to the Penobscot County Courthouse in Bangor in the spring. Three years ago, the court began visiting high schools each fall so that students and community members would have an opportunity to see what the court does.

Last year, it held sessions at Hampden Academy, Falmouth High School and Thornton Academy in Saco.

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Warren Silver called the court’s annual road trip “a teaching tool.”

“We do this because we think it’s important to connect the court system to the youth,” he said Monday. “We try to make this a civics lesson for the students to help them understand how our court system works.”

Silver did not know exactly how much it cost the court to meet outside of Portland but said that most of the costs are borne by the host schools including their meals. The seven justices also travel in two cars owned by two of the justices.

“The only things we bring are our clerks and one security person,” the justice said. “This is the first year that will require on overnight for our visit to Eastport. We don’t spend a lot of money.”

The cases the justices will consider Wednesday and next week run the gamut from divorce decrees to workers’ compensation awards to planning board decisions to criminal convictions for drunken driving and forgery. The court also will consider whether a law that requires people whose animals have been seized by the state to pay for their care is constitutional.

The justices will take another look at a case that pits a homeowner against the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Housing Authority and five of its former commissioners. It will be the fifth time in a decade the case has been before the state’s high court.

During her State of the Judiciary address to the Legislature in February, Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley invited law-makers to host the court at schools in their districts. The response was so great, according to Saufley, that the court will visit more schools this year than it has before.

Faculty and administrators have been working at each school on details, Silver said. Students in some classes have studied the justice system and how the court works. A few have read the briefs and some of the court’s previous decisions.

The court’s sessions at the schools are open to the public but subject to some restrictions. Large bags, backpacks and weapons will not be permitted in the buildings and the use of electronic devices will be prohibited.

People planning to attend should check with individual schools for information about where to park and whether they should check in at offices for visitors’ passes before going to the auditoriums or gymnasiums where the court will convene.

All sessions will be held in the morning hours but are scheduled to begin at different times at different locations. Schools may require that spectators be seated 10 to 15 minutes before the justices are seated.

Arguments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Augusta and Eastport, at 9:30 a.m. in Winthrop and at 9:45 a.m. in Sanford and Bangor.

For more information, visit the Maine Judiciary’s Web site at www.courts.state.me.us. For a list of cases the justices will hear, click on the Supreme Court October Calendar.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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