Monday, December 17, 2012

Court of Appeals Hosts Students in Pasadena

Judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals welcomed students to the Richard H. Chambers United States Courthouse in Pasadena on November 7, 2012.  The visit by about 40 juniors from La Canada High School was part of a Ninth Circuit field trip program organized by the school’s vice principal with help from the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles.

Students were able to observe oral arguments in an Arizona death penalty case.  The students had discussed the case a week earlier with Deputy Federal Public Defender Guy Iversen, who explained legal concepts such as ineffective assistance of counsel, issues related to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), and Proposition 34, a ballot measure to abolish the death penalty in California which failed in the last election.

Following the proceeding, students met with the judges who had heard the appeal.  Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of Pasadena and Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt of Los Angeles and Sidney R. Thomas of Billings, Montana, spent about 30 minutes answering questions from the group. 

Should an opinion be issued before the school year ends in June, school officials plan to have another class discussion to see if the students agree or disagree with the panel’s decision.

La Canada High School students at the Richard H. Chambers United States Courthouse

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Federal Court Welcomes San Diego Area Teachers

The Southern District of California recently held its first teacher institute, inviting more than two dozen San Diego area educators to the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building and United States Courthouse for a day-long workshop focusing on understanding the judicial branch and the work of the courts.

The “Court Connection” program included presentations by Senior District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller, District Judge Janis L. Sammartino and District Court Clerk Sam Hamrick. Judge Miller’s judicial assistant, Kathleen McMahon-Walford, helped organize the program and served as liaison to the San Diego Unified School District. The teachers were recruited by the school district’s social studies coordinator, Matt Hayes.

The visiting teachers were able to observe actual sentencing hearings before Judge Sammartino and participated in a mock trial before Judge Miller. They also learned about voir dire and available civics education resources.

Teachers participated in the Court Connection program to learn about the federal judicial system.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Central District 2012 Teachers’ Institute

The use of technology brought 30 Los Angeles-area high school teachers and 20 D.C.-area high school teachers together for an interactive civics lesson without having to leave their respective courthouses.  The Central District of California, celebrated its 11th annual Teachers' Institute on October 23, 2012, by participating in a video conference hosted by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.  The government, civics, and history teachers deepened their knowledge of the federal courts and learned innovative ways of teaching about the  judiciary.  District Judge Richard J. Leon of the D.C. District headlined the event with a judicial overview and a joint question-and-answer session.  Constitutional scholar Robert S. Peck, who is affiliated with the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier, involved the teachers by demonstrating how to use the Socratic method to teach Supreme Court precedents and apply them to contemporary issues.

High school teachers from Los Angeles and District of Columbia convene for an interactive civics lesson.

Monday, September 24, 2012

District of Guam Celebrates Constitution Day

From left, Senator Tom Ada, U.S. Attorney Alicia A.G. Limtiaco,
Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Fr. Julio Sanchez Malagon,
Speaker Judy T. Won Pat, First Lady of Guam Christine Calvo.

The United States District Court for the District of Guam celebrated Constitution Day on September 17, 2012, marking 225 years since the Constitution was signed by the Founding Fathers in 1787.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Students Celebrate 2012 Law Day at Los Angeles Federal Court

Local high school students throughout Los Angeles County celebrated 2012 Law Day at the United States District Court in Los Angeles. Some 1,000 students, teachers, and volunteers gathered for the three-day event held April 24-April 26, 2012. The program included mock trials and presentations by judges, attorneys, pretrial services and probation officers,court staff, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Court staff and volunteers from Justice Corps and Trinity Law School worked tirelessly to ensure a successful and rewarding program for the students.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Judges Welcome Students, Others to the Browning Courthouse

Jefferson High School students from
Daly City, California

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, headquartered in the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco, frequently welcomes students who want to learn more about the federal judiciary.  Despite their busy schedule, the judges were generous with their time in welcoming and taking questions from several groups of local high school students, law school students from here and abroad, as well as interns and externs, seeking to expand their knowledge of the United States judicial system.

Judges who participated in several programs conducted by the court include
Circuit Judges Carlos T. Bea, Jay S. Bybee, Richard R. Clifton, William A. Fletcher, Sandra S. Ikuta, M. Margaret McKeown, Mary H. Murguia, Richard A. Paez, Johnnie B. Rawlinson, and Richard C. Tallman; and Senior Circuit Judges Ferdinand F. Fernandez, Michael Daly Hawkins, Dorothy W. Nelson, Stephen S. Trott, and A. Wallace Tashima.  Senior District Judge Charles R. Breyer of the District of Arizona, District Judge Raner C. Collins of the District of Arizona, and Chief District Judge Sarah S. Vance, a visiting judge from the Eastern District of Louisiana, also participated.

Beginning in May, 19 students from Jefferson High School in Daly City, California, visited the court and watched oral arguments before Circuit Judges M. Margaret McKeown, William A. Fletcher, and Senior Circuit Judge Stephen S. Trott. 

On June 11 and June 13, 2012, Circuit Judges Sandra S. Ikuta and Johnnie B. Rawlinson met with a group of appellate advocacy students from the University of Santa Clara School of Law, and law students who were volunteers at the immigration court and the ICE attorney’s office in San Francisco, and at Gibson Dunn law firm.  Later that afternoon, Senior Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins and several staff attorneys met with students from Oakland International High School, Dream Academy, and toured the courthouse.

On June 12, 2012, the court welcomed 35 students from the California Attorney General’s offices in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco, and seven law students from Townsend Kilpatrick law firm.  They observed oral arguments and met with Circuit Judge Carlos T. Bea and Senior Circuit Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez.

Circuit Judge Carlos T. Bea and Richard C. Tallman met on June 14, 2012, with 10 law students working as externs for the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, and another group of law students from Santa Clara Law.  Later that afternoon, Senior Circuit Judge Dorothy W. Nelson and Judges Rawlinson and Ikuta met with 15 students and externs from Santa Clara Law and the district court, including staff members.  The following day, a group of international law students from a summer program at UC Berkeley Law met with Judges Bea and Nelson.

Judges Clifton, Murguia, and Tashima met and took questions on July 16, 2012, from groups of law students including 30 from the San Francisco Attorney’s Office, 10 from Pillsbury law firm in San Francisco, and 10 externs for judges in the Eastern District of California.  The students and externs also had the opportunity to observe oral arguments and meet with law clerks. 

A group of 15 international law students in a program at Santa Clara Law had the opportunity to meet with Judges Clifton, Murguia, and Collins on July 18, 2012.  Fifteen law student interns for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Public Defender’s Office in the Northern District of California, and six judicial externs who are working for district and magistrate judges in Oakland also met with the judges.

Judges Bybee, Paez, and Vance met with a group of 25 UC Berkeley Law students who are participants in a joint program with the University of Tel Aviv.  The group also observed oral arguments.

On July 31, 2012, a group of 30 high school students from Mid-Peninsula Housing Summer Program in San Mateo, California; together with 20 high school students from Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth; and 10 law student externs from the California Attorney General’s Office observed oral arguments before Judges Fletcher and Breyer, and with Judge Trott, who participated by video.  The judges took questions from the group following the oral arguments.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Community Outreach Effort in Full Swing in Western Washington

Ninth Circuit Judge Richard Tallman
speaks with teachers
The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, which has courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma, established a community outreach committee in 2011.  The committee has set about establishing collaborative relationships with local bar associations and law schools and retained the services of a noted attorney-educator to help design outreach programs.  The committee also is contributing to the development of the court’s new Internet website, which is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2012.

Teachers chat with District Judge
Robert Lasnik
So far, the committee’s efforts are focused on educating educators about the law and role of the judiciary. The court held a Judicial Institute for High School on June 27-29, 2012, and an iCivics Institute for Middle and Junior High School Teachers on July 18-20, 2012, both at the federal courthouse in Seattle.  Some 60 teachers from the western half of the state participated in the programs.  The court used funds collected from attorney admissions fees to reimburse attendees for lodging and travel expenses.  There was no charge for the programs, and teachers earned continuing education credits.

The Judicial Academy helped teachers to better understand the U.S. Constitution, the federal and state judiciaries, and federal issues including immigration, federal criminal law and civil rights.  The program for middle and junior high school teachers focused on how to make use of the iCivics program started by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, which is available online at

The court is planning its first Constitution Day event with programs in Tacoma on September 17, 2012, and Seattle on September 19, 2012.  Both programs will bring fourth- and fifth-grade students to the courthouse for a tour, a mock trial sponsored by the Federal Bar Association, and a visit with a judge.  The committee also has worked with the FBA to establish a Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic, open one day per week in Seattle.

The committee is being aided by Margaret Fisher, an attorney with over 30 years of full-time experience educating the public in the law.  She is currently a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Seattle University School of Law and works part-time for the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts to develop programs and curricula for the judiciary to educate the public in the law.  She is also the Washington State coordinator for the iCivics program.

For questions the Western District of Washington outreach programs, please contact:

Bill McCool
District Court Executive/Clerk of Court
U.S. District Court
Western District of Washington
(206) 370-8430


Monday, June 25, 2012

Arizona Legal Foundation Honors Ninth Circuit Judge

Arizona Legal Foundation Honors Ninth Circuit Judge

Judge Murguia speaking to students

Judge Mary H. Murguia of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was honored in June by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education.  She received the foundation's Mark Santana Law-Related Education Award at a June 21 luncheon in Phoenix.  She is the first federal judge to receive the award, which recognizes exceptional contributions by members of the Arizona bench and bar in furthering education and understanding of the role of the law in our democratic society.

Judge Murguia was recognized for her work with the Kids to Court/CourtWorks program, which provides young people with a firsthand look at the courts through a visit to the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix.  Nearly 2,000 youngsters have participated in the program, which includes a mock trial, and presentations by judges, attorneys, court staff and law enforcement officers.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Los Angeles Bankruptcy Court Has Most Self-Filers

Judges and staff at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California are taking a hard look at ways to better serve people who file for bankruptcy without a lawyer while having little or no understanding of the process and procedures.  The court, which serves more than 18 million people in seven Southern California counties, reported 38,098 filings by self-represented debtors last fiscal year.  That’s 30 percent of the total of self-represented bankruptcy filers nationally, and more than all of the other bankruptcy courts in the western states combined.

Court statistics show that a self-represented debtor is almost eight times more likely to have his or her Chapter 7 case dismissed than a debtor represented by counsel.  The odds are even worse in Chapter 13 cases, which are often filed by homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure.  A self-represented debtor has less than a 1-percent chance of successfully completing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

More information here.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Courthouse Exhibits in Los Angeles

Sketch from Michael Jackson trial
The United States District Court for the Central District of California has opened historical exhibits at its two courthouses in downtown Los Angeles. 

The Spring Street courthouse features exhibits on the “Office of the Clerk of Court – Past and Present” and the “Artistic Depictions of Spring Street Courtroom Proceedings," features an historical overview of various career opportunities available in the clerk’s office.  Another exhibit, “Artistic Depictions of Spring Street Courtroom Proceedings,” features trials of well-known musicians including the late Michael Jackson, Rapper Suge Knight, Michael Bolton, Paula Abdul, Lionel Richie, and Mike Love of The Beach Boys.  Their trials ranged from copyright disputes to parole violation hearing.
Another exhibit in the Roybal Federal Building on Temple Street features courtroom artist sketches of infamous trials including the “Millenium Bomber,” Anna Nicole Smith’s bankruptcy hearing, Michael Jackson and Rodney King’s civil trials.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Idaho Court Hosts 'Resolution Roundup'

Volunteer judges and mediation experts spent a week helping Idahoans involved in federal court cases resolve their cases in an alternative way, and avoid lengthy trials. The United States District and Bankruptcy Court, District of Idaho, partnered with the Ninth Circuit Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee to host the “Resolution Roundup.” Susie Boring-Headlee, who’s organizing the program locally, said 30 cases were chosen during the program, held in early April in Boise.

Read more here:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chief District Judges Discuss Community Outreach

During a January 12-13, 2011, meeting in San Diego, chief judges of each of the 15 judicial districts in the Ninth Circuit learned about someo f the community outreach programs being used by federal courts. The program featured presentations on Law Week activities in Guam, the CourtWorks! program in Phoenix, Arizona, and an automated speaker bureau system used by the federal court in Seattle.

Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California attended the meeting as a respresentative of the Ninth Circuit Courts and Community Committee. Judge Sammartino discussed the Courts & Community website and the upcoming publication of a printed newsletter for judges and court staff.

Check out for more information, including organizational materials, for the programs mentioned above and others.