Junior Law and Courtworks

Does a school violate a student’s 4th Amendment rights when they search her purse for cigarettes and instead find marijuana and other drug paraphernalia? The Supreme Court already addressed this issue in New Jersey v. T.L.O., but on Friday, November 6, more than 260 eighth grade students had the opportunity to present their own arguments at the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse as part of the annual Court Works event. Students had the opportunity to act as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judge, and jurors. On hand to help were nearly fifty volunteer lawyers, as well as three students on Milagro Cisneros’s HNBA Mentoring Program team, and 1L David Jackson, who organizes the Junior Law program at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

At Court Works, the 8th grade students presented their opening arguments, examined and cross-examined witnesses, and gave their closing statements. After the jury had returned a verdict in all the courtrooms, the students gathered to hear the Honorable Mary Murguia speak about the benefits of academic achievement. The students also had the opportunity to listen to and interact with various legal professionals, including parole officers, police officers, and court personnel. [U.S. Marshalls even allowed student volunteers to try on a bullet proof vest and feel what it’s like to be shackled before going to court.] They also enjoyed a demonstration from Gamma, a bomb-sniffing dog.

Junior Law is an educational outreach program designed to teach middle school students about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Supreme Court cases, and the legal profession in a fun and interactive way. As part of the program, law students conduct classroom visits to teach students how to analyze a fact pattern and formulate an argument. The current curriculum focuses on the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures as it relates to the everyday experiences of the students. During the classroom visit, the law students also have the chance to talk to the middle school students about going to college and why education is so important. In the fall, Court Works provides students the opportunity to conduct a mock trial of the case they studied during Junior Law.