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.