Courts in the Community

Hawaii Supreme Court Justices Convene at Baldwin High School on Maui.
The Hawaii Supreme Court convened at Henry Perrine Baldwin High School on Maui. Pictured are (left to right): Justices Sabrina McKenna and Paula Nakayama; Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, and Justices Simeon Acoba and Richard Pollack.

Courts in the Community is the Hawaii Supreme Court’s educational outreach program that gives high school students unique, hands-on experience in how the Hawaii judicial system works.

Under the Courts in the Community program, the full, five-member court travels to Hawaii high schools to hear oral argument in an actual case.

The event begins with remarks welcoming the audience and explaining the format of the proceedings. The court will hear one oral argument during the visit. At the conclusion of the argument, the justices depart the room so that the students may discuss the case with the participating lawyers. The lawyers leave the room at the end of their session and the justices return to answer non-case related questions from the students. A luncheon with the students and members of the bar usually wraps up the activities. The entire visit generally lasts about four to five hours.

Prior to the court convening on a campus, students have the opportunity to learn about the judicial system and the appellate process using a curriculum developed by the Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center and the Students for Public Outreach and Civic Education of the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law. The students also participate in a moot court exercise involving the actual case that will be argued when the court comes to campus. The Hawaii State Bar Association has been providing financial support for students participating in the program. The moot court activity is facilitated by volunteer lawyers or law school students.

Contact Information

For more information, call Matt Mattice at 539-4999 or email him at matt@jhchawaii.net. To request a judge to speak to students in your class, call David Cypriano at 539-4999 or email him at: david@jhchawaii.net.

 

Students Experience the Hawaii Supreme Court in Action

The first Courts in the Community Program was held at Farington High School in 2012.

The Court convened at Farrington High School.

The first oral argument under the Courts in the Community program held on Oahu at Farrington High School in February 2012, with participants coming from Farrington and Mililani High Schools.

In preparation, the high school students studied a lesson plan which included a brief summary of the case prepared by UH law school students.

After the oral argument, there was a question-and-answer session with the participating lawyers. At the conclusion of the session with the lawyers, the members of the court met with students to answer questions about the judiciary and the appellate system, and then joined them for lunch.

The response from students and faculty who attended was incredibly positive. Students were amazed that some of the questions that were asked by the justices during oral  argument had come up during their own moot court exercises. They were able to understand the process in a way that would not have been possible by listening to a lecture. Several students said that the experience had inspired them to consider a career in law.

In December 2012, the Courts in the Community program went to Baldwin High School in Wailuku, Maui. It is believed to be the first supreme court oral argument on Maui in about 150 years, and almost 500 students from seven different schools attended the program. The Maui County Bar Association supported the event in many ways, most notably by volunteering to meet with students to ensure that they understood the legal process and the actual case that was argued before the court. Again, the response from the students, teachers, and the County Bar was extremely positive.

Because it has proven to be a significant learning opportunity, the Judiciary is looking forward to bringing the program to the island of Hawaii this coming school year.

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