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Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal assists students judge presiding over mock trial – Courtesy Photo
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California recently hosted an engaging Law Day program for a group of bright and enthusiastic high school students from the greater Los Angeles area.
Approximately 80 students from Junior State of America (JSA) participated in the event, which was held May 20, 2014, at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and United States Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Junior State is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages students who are interested in politics, government, foreign affairs, the law and education to become active and informed citizens.
Organized around the theme, “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters,” the Law Day celebration began with mock trials involving criminal charges brought in a texting-while-driving case. The trials played out in two courtrooms with students assuming the roles of judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, courtroom deputies, and jurors. U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez and Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal assisted the student judges and provided information about trial practices and procedures. Attorneys from the United States Attorney’s and Federal Public Defender’s offices coached the student prosecutors and defense counsel and mentored the students who prepared their own closing arguments. Each mock trial included a jury, which deliberated and rendered a verdict.
Following the mock trials, U.S. Bankruptcy Judges Sandra R. Klein and Maureen A. Tighe provided financial literacy presentations. The presentations utilized video and audio clips to highlight important information such as distinguishing between wants and needs, budgeting, saving, investing, using credit cards wisely, and the difference between credit and debit cards. The presentations also included material about student loans and bankruptcy.
The Bankruptcy Court then hosted a Power Lunch, during which judges, lawyers and other professionals shared lunch with the students and discussed the law and the legal profession. In addition to the judges already mentioned, also participating in the Power Lunch were U.S. District Court Judges Dolly M. Gee, John A. Kronstadt, and Beverly Reid O’Connell; Senior District Court Judges Terry J. Hatter and Ronald S.W. Lew; Magistrate Judges Alka Sagar and Patrick J. Walsh; Chief Bankruptcy Judge Peter H. Carroll; and U.S. Bankruptcy Judges Neil W. Bason, Sheri Bluebond, Julia W. Brand, Victoria S. Kaufman, and Richard M. Neiter. U.S. Bankruptcy Clerk of Court/Executive Officer Kathleen J. Campbell and Federal Public Defender Sean K. Kennedy also participated along with numerous attorneys from all of the federal agencies.
The Power Lunch opened with discussion of significant events in our nation’s history regarding voting and voting rights. Students were encouraged to exercise their voting rights so that their voices can be heard. Guest speaker, Professor Laurie L. Levenson of Loyola Law School, then spoke to the students about high profile cases, law and justice, and emphasized that justice requires hard work and dedication. The Power Lunch concluded with a spirited game of “Legal Jeopardy” with categories such as the “Bill of Rights” and “Who’s Who in the Courtroom.” The students as well as the volunteers had a wonderful time.
The Law Day celebration ended with a Jobs Panel, which featured speakers from the District Court, the Bankruptcy Court, the Bureau of Prisons, and the offices of the United States Attorney, Federal Public Defender, United States Trustee, Pretrial Services, Probation Office, United States Marshals Service, and Federal Protective Services. The speakers discussed their background, education, how they financed their education, how they got their jobs, and what they liked the most and the least about their work.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Klein, who chairs her court’s Community Outreach Committee, thanked various court staff for their help in making the event a success, and recognized the contributions of the U.S. District Court, the Bureau of Prisons, and the offices of the United States Attorney, Federal Public Defender, U.S. Trustee, Pretrial Services and Probation, United States Marshals Service, and Federal Protective Services for their participation in the Law Day celebration.
Central District of Caliifornia Law Day Group photograph 052014 – Courtesy Photo