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Superior Court Fair turns local teens into judges and lawyers for a day


When 16-year-old Arabia Roberts put on the judge’s black robe and entered the courtroom, another high school student acting as the law firm’s clerk shouted, “Everyone stand up.”

Roberts took the bench. “This court is now called to order,” she said. His task for the day was to serve as a judge on the DC Superior Court, accidentally hearing a mock trial with other high school students serving as prosecutors, defense attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and defendants.

About 100 Washington-area middle and high school students gathered at the courthouse on Saturday for the 24th annual Melvin R. Wright Youth Law Fair. The five-hour training session, led by the court’s full-time judges and DC Bar attorneys, was launched to introduce local teens to the law as a possible career path.

Several of the participants said they hoped to one day work in the criminal justice system. Roberts, a sophomore at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, said she wanted to become a criminal psychologist.

“I like being able to hear the cases,” Roberts said. “But I want to be able to use the law to help people and understand people and their motivation.”

Other students said they simply enjoy the mock trials, which many of them attend at their high schools.

Jordan Ray, also a 16-year-old student at Bishop McNamara High School, wants to become a medical examiner. “I think it’s just fun,” she said. “It forces you to think and formulate questions quickly, on your feet.”

The court had several booths in the building to introduce students to employers such as the District Public Defense Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The students were dispatched to half a dozen courtrooms, where professional lawyers and judges worked with them on a case involving the armed robbery of a winter coat. Lawyers asked students to volunteer to be judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants, witnesses, court clerks and jurors.

In a courtroom, when attorney Ann Wilcox asked who wanted to testify as a DC police officer, none of the students raised their hands. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to pick someone for this job,” she laughed.

Anita M. Josey-Herring, the court’s chief justice, said she hoped the event would inspire young people to be “excited” about the justice system and become “engaged citizens.”

“We hope that one day you will take on jobs that will improve the lives of the people of the district,” Josey-Herring said.

Judge Kenia Seoane López said another aim was to inform teenagers that even if they are not directly involved in a crime, they can still be charged as co-defendants if they participated in the planning of the crime. crime.

“We see so many minors here in the justice system, charged with crimes, who just think because they didn’t have a weapon or were even at the scene of the crime, they didn’t know they could be charged just for to have been part of the planning,” said Seoane López.

Tracy Press, executive director of youth organization Powerful Beyond Measure, has brought Washington-area teens to the event for the past seven years. The press said that one of the first high school students she brought was now in law school. “This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to see the different roles they can take on in the legal profession,” Press said.

Alexa O’Neal, a 15-year-old sophomore at Oakdale High School near Frederick, Maryland, took on the role of co-prosecutor in the stolen coat case. She and the defense attorney on the case began to argue over evidence and testimony.

After an hour of trial, student jurors deliberated and found the defendants guilty of conspiracy and armed robbery. It was O’Neal’s first victory as a prosecutor.

“We are becoming a voice for the state, but also for the victims – to help bring justice to the victims,” she said. “Yeah, that’s cool.”


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