A Day in the Pupils’ Court

 

Diane Ring, assistant professor of law, plays the "judge," and Malden eight-grader Melinda Chan is a witness in the mock trail.

Credit: Rose Lincoln Diane Ring, assistant professor of law, plays the “judge,” and Malden eight-grader Melinda Chan is a witness in the mock trail.

Thirteen-year-old Queen Pleasant can’t graduate from law school until at least 2011, but she got a head start on her legal education in April as she cross-examined witnesses in the Ames Courtroom.

Pleasant, along with more than 150 other Cambridge and Malden middle-school students, visited campus for a day as part of the annual Kids in the Court program. For the program, 50 HLS volunteers made eight visits to local classrooms, where they taught students about the legal system and prepared them for roles as witnesses and attorneys in mock trials involving fictional school discipline infractions, according to coordinator Maria Sanders ’01.

During the April 11 trial, students eagerly took turns quizzing witnesses and delivering opening and closing statements in the case of Roscoe Pound High School quarterback Arthur Miller, who was suspended from the football team after school officials found beer in his locker.

“I’ve been stunned at how excited the kids are about the program,” Sanders said.

Law School students served as jurors, and Assistant Professor Diane Ring ’90 presided as judge in the 90-minute trial. “I just have a blast,” said Ring, who has volunteered to play judge for the past several years.

After ten minutes of deliberations, the jury found for plaintiff Miller, but both sides were rewarded equally with a pizza party.

“It went great,” said team leader Michael Nunnelley ’02. “The kids had a good time, and they clearly learned a lot.”

The aspiring lawyers said they enjoyed their day in court. “It was a good opportunity to learn what goes on in the courtrooms in the United States,” said Malden Middle School eighth-grader Patrick Desmond.