Students get chance to see court at work

Posted Oct. 13, 2009, at 10:15 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:39 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will return to Aroostook County this month to hear oral arguments before an audience of high school students from the St. John Valley.

Justices will convene at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Fox Auditorium on the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus, according to a press release posted on the court’s Web site last week. The court went on the road visiting high schools five years ago. Its first session was held at Caribou High School.

The supreme court also will hear appeals on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at Georges Valley High School in Thomaston and on Friday, Oct. 30, at Fryeburg Academy. Both sessions are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

“The practice of appellate law is rarely seen on television or in movies, and we hope that these opportunities supplement the education and exposure of Maine students to the third branch of government,” Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley said in the press release.

“We are particularly excited this year as we have not been to the St. John Valley, nor have we, sitting as a court, been to either the midcoast or far western reaches of Maine recently,” she continued. “Maine legislators and teachers have been a wonderful resource for us. We often learn as much about our great state as the students and the public learn from the judicial branch.”

During her annual State of the Judiciary speech to the Legislature, Saufley asks lawmakers to invite the justices to convene at high schools in their districts. The court is visiting the St. John Valley at the request of Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, according to the press release. The longtime legislator also issued the invitation for the court to convene in Caribou in 2005.

“This is a great learning experience and an opportunity for high school students to talk about the judiciary,” Martin, who teaches at UMFK, said last week. “Students often visit the State House but it’s rare for them to visit the supreme court.”

Teachers will have an opportunity to go over background material and briefs that have been filed in the cases before they are argued before the justices, he said. After each argument, lawyers will be available to answer students’ questions about the cases once the justices have left the auditorium.

“This probably will be many students’ first chance to talk to a lawyer,” Martin said. “They may have seen courtrooms watching television, but the reality of how the system really works is a lot different.”

The public is invited to attend the high school sessions.

Information about cases scheduled for October can be viewed at http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/supreme/oral_arguments.shtml.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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