Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Judges drive home legal points

October 3, 2001

When the judges speak, people listen.

So learned eighth- and ninth-grade students at Tonganoxie Junior High School on Thursday when two Kansas court of appeals judges, Joseph Pierron Jr. and Henry Green, talked to them about the nation's judicial system.

Pierron said this is part of a program, "The United States Supreme Court in Review." Before visiting Tonganoxie, the two judges had first met with students in Leavenworth.

"We demonstrate how the United States Supreme Court works by having them help present United States Supreme Court cases that have been decided within the last few years," Pierron said.

Pierron, who lives in Olathe, was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1990. Green, who resides in Leavenworth, has served on the Court of Appeals since 1993.

Pierron explained the basics to the students, telling him that the Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court, between the trial court and the Kansas Supreme Court.

"If you don't like what happens in the trial court, you can ask to have it appealed," Pierron said. "They won't try your case but they will see if the correct laws and procedures were applied. The state Supreme Court reviews what we do and sometimes reaches down and takes the court cases right away."

The final level, he said, is on the federal level.

"The United States Supreme Court is the most powerful court in the world," Pierron said.

Pierron and Green each walked the students through two court cases that dealt with Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues. Students volunteered to serve as law enforcement officers, drivers, attorneys and judges.

Surprisingly, when the student body voted on each decision, the percentage of their votes closely resembled that of the actual court decisions.

After the assembly, ninth-grader Steven Lundberg said the program was educational.

"I learned they can't search your house or anything unless they have a warrant," he said. "And I learned about all the different levels of government and how they work."

Steve Woolf, junior high principal, said the school jumped at the opportunity to have the judges visit. That was the only day they could make it to the school, Woolf said. "We knew we would be in the middle of our Stanford Achievement tests, but we thought this was important and so we rearranged our schedule to fit that in."

Woolf said he thought the students enjoyed the assembly.

"It's a unique experience for most of them. But we hope they don't ever have to spend a lot of time in court."

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