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
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 http://www.icivics.org/.
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: