Thursday, January 28, 2010

Learning About The Law

Today we got a wonderful opportunity to both tour the new (and absolutely gorgeous) Federal Building in in our city, but also to spend some time in one of the courtrooms, hearing from and asking questions of a judge there. A mom in our homeschool group had set this up (what an awesome idea!) and so with some reading about the Constitution under our belts, we headed to the courthouse this morning.

The kids got to sit in the counsel chairs or the jury box, and asked questions of the judge. While for the younger kids I'm sure it was fun to see the courtroom, many of the judge's answers might have been a bit too involved (Asa turned around at one point and mouthed "I'm bored" to me). But for Mackenzie, it was just perfect. Strangely, because at his age I don't think I really gave a whole lot of thought to my future career, he's already considering "three paths: doctor, lawyer, computer programmer" (according to Mackenzie). So this was a great opportunity for him to hear from someone in the field of law.

Myself, I was really impressed with the questions he asked (and also impressed that he always remembered to preface them with "Your honor,...") He asked about the judge's background, why he became a judge, whether he'd ever looked back on any of his decisions and wished he'd ruled differently, and a couple other thoughtful questions. I was also really really impressed with the time the judge took out of what must be a busy schedule to meet with the kids, and with his very thoughtful answers. For instance, one mom asked what one piece of advice he would give to kids. I was sure he was going to say something cliched about following the law, but he thought for a time and said that he thought more people should say "I'm sorry" when they do something wrong. That our society has become increasingly litigious, and that often people are discouraged from apologizing by lawyers who think it will open them up to a lawsuit, but that we should return to owning up to our mistakes and apologizing.

He also talked about an interesting civil liberties case he ruled upon, which ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court, PGA Tour vs. Martin. This case involved a disabled golfer who asserted that the PGA could not deny him access to a golf cart to ride between holes. It's worth visiting that link to the Wikipedia site just to read through the Supreme Court's dissenting opinion by Justice Scalia (which has been nominated as one of the funniest Supreme Court rulings of all time).

All in all, it was a terrific opportunity, and Mackenzie came away saying "I wish I could just sit with that judge and ask him questions all by myself for an hour!"

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