Courts in the Community Program Video

The Courts in the Community program was developed by the Hawaii State Judiciary to educate students and the general public about the
judiciary’s role in our government. By conducting Supreme Court Hearings at high schools and other public venues, students and other members of the public have an opportunity to view court proceedings first hand. This is our third oral argument held at a
school around the state. We started at Farrington, then at Baldwin and today at the campus of
the University of Hawaii Hilo. Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald:
It is a very important program because the Supreme actually goes out in the community and holds an oral argument in a real case. The members of the community and very importantly, the members of the community have the opportunity to see the courts in action. So instead of
just hearing abstract terms about separation of powers, or the rule of law, they are able
to actually see how those principles play out in a real case. . .and thanks to the efforts of the bar, they’ve learned about the case before we come and hold oral argument . . .so they are able to understand our questions, understand the issues and see the process
in action, and we think that helps to build confidence in what we do, and we hope that the students can see that it is a process with integrity and it’s designed to get the
truth.. .and I think that nothing can be more important. The Hawaii State Supreme Court selects the case and venue for the Oral Argument to be heard and the students of surroundings high schools are invited to attend. Prior to official court date, members of the
local Bar or law school students,visit participating classrooms and prepare the students using
curricular developed by the King Kamehameha 5th Judiciary History Center and the students for public outreach and civic education of the William S. Richardson School of Law. Over the course of two to three class periods, students learn details about the case and argue it themselves. The learning culminates in the students attending the actual Supreme Court Hearing in an area high school. After
the hearing concludes, the attorneys involved in the case, as well as the Supreme Court
Justices participate in question and answer sessions with the students. Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald:
I think our protections that exist in our Constitution depend on having citizens who understand the role of the courts, understand the role of the different branches government. And again, if they understand it in the abstract that’s great. But it’s even more beneficial
if they can see the government in action, see a court in action and understand that
it is a process that is fair, that both sides have a chance to tell their side of the story
and the decision that comes out will be one that is made with integrity and fairness.So
we are very thankful to have that opportunity. Rebecca Thomas:
The teachers do all they can teaching us about the practice of law. but it is even better
to have them come in here and see it in real life. It’s definitely eye-opening to see all
the things we have been learning in the classroom actually come to life. Elizabeth Kwon:
It was interesting to see how the justices had to have a neutral opinion on everything
in order to decide fairly. Rebecca Thomas:
Mom, Dad guess what I got to see a real case and now I want to be a lawyer! By studying how the American Court System works, arguing both sides of the case in class, and then attending an actual Supreme Court proceeding, students receive a valuable civics lesson and are able to engage in a memorable dialogue with the Hawaii Supreme Court. Our entire system of government gains when the legal system is demystified and courts are made more accessible to the public. Through the Courts in the Community program, the Hawaii State Supreme Court has traveled around the state to conduct Supreme Court Hearings. The program gives students the opportunity to
go beyond their textbooks and experience a Supreme Court oral argument in person, making it an invaluable learning tool. This program would not be possible without the help of
our community partners including, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Hawaii State Bar
Foundation and students at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of
Law. Mahalo to Hawaii’s teachers and students: the Heartbeat of this program. Participation in our democracy depends on
an informed citizenry and access to our government institutions.

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