Thirty eighth grade students from James H. Moran Middle School got a first-hand look at the judicial system with a tour of the Meriden Courthouse on January 31.
The tour is part of the Connecticut Bar Association’s (CBA) Connecticut Court Visitation Program, which allows students in grades 7-12 to visit a courtroom and witness real-life criminal court proceedings. The goal of the program is to acquaint students with the basic steps used in both civil and criminal court procedures and to demonstrate to them the responsibilities of citizens in the American legal system.
James J. Moran Middle School Student Enrichment Program (STEP) teacher, Jim Andreson, accompanied the students to the courthouse where CBA member Attorney Sandra Gerber provided them with a guided tour. Court staff was on-hand to explain their roles including Marshals Farkas and Schweitzer. Students were also addressed by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney John Lyons and Judge Maureen Murphy, who explained the process of becoming a judge. Additionally, the students were able to observe the lock-up and an arraignment session with Judge Phillip Scarpellino.
According to the students, attending court was beneficial to understand how the criminal justice system operates. They were able to witness everything from the impact a criminal action can have on a family to the use of legal terms and phrases. This insight will assist the young legal scholars as they participate in the upcoming statewide Civics First Inc. Mock Trial Competition. The students spend nearly four months preparing for the mock trial and the court visit is part of the training.
Attorney Sandra Gerber has been involved in the Connecticut Court Visitation Program for 20 years. Attorney Gerber practices family law in Meriden and her past experience working for the Connecticut Prison Association certainly contributes to her knowledge of the judicial system and the court process.
“Since its inception in 1980, the Connecticut Court Visitation Program has become a standard part of the curriculum in many schools in the state and more than 84,000 students from public and private middle schools and high schools throughout the state have participated in the program.” Superior Court Judge Seymour L. Hendel, Chair of the Court Visitation Program, said.
The Connecticut Bar Association is a professional association committed to the advancement of justice, the protection of liberty, and to safeguarding the dignity of the legal profession. For more information please visit www.ctbar.org.