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ASU teaches teens legal lessons

November 09, 2007

More than 250 eighth-graders recently filled the courtrooms of the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix as part of Court Works, a program from ASU’s Office of Youth Preparation (OYP) that teaches students the basics of constitutional law, court behavior and then coordinates the opportunity to re-enact a case in the setting of an actual federal courtroom.

Students from Kuban, Garcia, Hamilton and Sullivan schools in the Murphy Elementary School District performed every role in eight different cases, acting as judges, jurors, prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants and witnesses.

“By experiencing the courtroom in action, the program hopes students will stay in school and pursue an interest in one of the careers observed,” says Peggy Jordan, associate director of the Office of Youth Preparation at ASU. “The students have a chance to explore the logic, the law and the analytical process that leads to a decision guided by the U.S. Constitution and local law.”

To participate in Court Works, students must get basic law training. Michael Zimmerman, OYP’s program director for junior law, coordinates most of the activities that prepare and teach middle-school students how to perform in Court Works. For him, the event is one more way to engage future law professionals.

“In addition to preparing students for their mock trial, junior law presentations introduce middle-school students to current ASU law students,”

Zimmerman says. “For many students not knowing the educational requirements for various careers is a barrier to success. During junior law visits, law students highlight the importance of academic achievement and encourage middle school students to meet the requirements for law school application.”

At least a dozen lawyers attended the event to observe court proceedings and offer free advice to the young counselors in each case. Among those present was lawyer and community leader Daniel Ortega, an ASU alum and graduate of Hamilton High School.

After the closing of cases, the students had a chance to interact with several courthouse representatives, including U.S. district court judge Mary H. Murguia.

ASU has separate mentoring programs organized by the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law and the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Multi-Level Mentoring Program.

Court Works was created in 2004 as an effort between Murguia, OYP and ASU’s Office of Public Affairs.

For more information on Court Works and OYP, call (602) 496-1388 or visit the Web site

Chakris Kussalanant,
(480) 727-9181
Media Relations