750 students attend final Law DayThe presentation is put on by the three District Court judges each year
On June 7, four defendants escaped convictions and a fifth benefited from a hung jury at the South Division of South District Court.
The 5th graders who handed down the verdicts must have been feeling generous.
No actual defendants were freed. The occasion, rather, was the 27th Law Day.
A number of volunteers, including public defenders, private attorneys, a prosecutor, judges, police officers, three K9 police dogs, and others showed up to give more than 750 local 5th graders a chance to see how a court functions and meet some of their local law enforcement people. (The three hands-down favorites: Buddy, Jack and Ice, the K9 police dogs.)
“What a fun day,” District Court Judge Beth Fraser said. “It was wonderful having the opportunity to bring together so many people who serve our community and, in turn, watch them work so compellingly with our 5th graders.
“It’s amazing how they run this so smoothly.”
The presentation is put on by the three District Court judges each year; always on a Friday so more students can attend.
This year, students from Lynndale, Seaview, Westgate, Oak Heights, Cedar Way, Meadowdale, Chase Lake, College Place, St. Pius X, Martha Lake, Lynnwood, Spruce and Sherwood elementary schools attended.
“All this is part of the American Bar Association's annual Law Day to educate the public, and especially the children, about the importance of law and justice in American society,” Paul Hanson, a Law Day volunteer attorney, said.
“There were many law-related presentations put on by local police and lawyers.”
But these weren’t boring presentations with adults preaching to kids. This was fun stuff with the children either participating or being allowed to ask questions about the topics.
For instance, one courtroom (Judge Carol A. McRae’s) held a mock trial. Students were picked to be the judge, bailiff, defense attorneys, prosecutors and a jury.
Volunteer attorneys help all the different parties with their duties, to make sure the proper procedures are followed.
The trial is held, the jury goes out to the jury room to deliberate, then come back to the courtroom to announce their decision. The case is always the same every year, but the results are far from rubber-stamped.
By noon, student juries had delivered four not-guilty verdicts and one hung-jury decision. And that’s changed over time, even though the case is always the same.
“Over time, we’re getting more not-guilty verdicts,” Judge McRae said.
Other courtrooms had demonstrations from the K9 dogs and their human partners, and Q&A’s about general police work and court proceedings.
Everything from “who feeds the police dogs” to “how fast have you ridden on your motorcycle?” – questions 5th graders are interested in.
“These are great questions,” Judge Fraser said. “Just giving the kids the opportunity to see an officer, to see they are nice people and approachable is good.”
Outside, in the parking lot, is a badly wrecked car. R&R Star Towing brings it to Law Day each year so children can get a close look at what a “wreck” really is.
Also in the parking lot were a Sheriff’s car and a S.W.A.T. vehicle (a Lenco Bearcat,) manned by Snohomish County deputies Marcus Dill and Brandon McCullar.
But despite all the good feelings about what Law Day has accomplished, there was an aura of sadness. After 27 years, Law Day has run its course.
“Budget cuts mean this will be the last Law Day,” Judge McRae said. “For instance, the prosecutors couldn’t be here today.”
It’s not just tightening court budgets that are having an effect on Law Day attendance. It costs money to drive the busloads of children to the courthouse, so it’s tougher for the schools to attend.
Troubling to participants, because Law Day had become a tradition after 27 years.
“We have lawyers volunteering here who came through the program when they were 5th graders,” Hanson said. “Many of the parents who are volunteering here attended as 5th graders, too.”
Law Day 2013
Mock Trial Volunteers:
Paul Hanson (all day) – private defense attorney
Golden Heistand (all day) --- Paul’s assistant
Pat Moriarty—private defense attorney
Omar Nur—private defense attorney
Brandon Feldman--- public defender
Sandy Sullivan – Mount Lake Terrace prosecutor
Yelena Stock – Mill Creek prosecutor
Jessica Ness – private defense attorney and pro tem judge
Rachel Mathisen --- public defender
Kim Olsen – private civil attorney
Michael Chin – private attorney
Lizanne Padula --- private attorney
Teresa Otsubo --- prosecutor
John Garza—private attorney
Adam Yanasak—private attorney
Jonathan Dichter—private attorney
K9 Officers Volunteers:
Lynnwood Police Officer Cole Langdon and K9 Buddy
Snohomish County Deputy James Gibson and K9 Jack
Washington State Patrol Trooper Scott Genoway and K9 Ice
Law Day Jeopardy Volunteers:
Washington State Patrol Sergeant Chris Caiola
Washington State Patrol Trooper John Axtman
Washington State Patrol Trooper Mike McGee
Traffic Safety And The Consequences Of Driving Under The Influence Presentation Volunteers:
Snohomish County DUI and Target Zero Traffic Safety Task Force Coordinator Tracy McMillan
Lynnwood Officer Ryan McQuoid
Edmonds Officer Eric Falk
R&R Star Towing
S.W.A.T. Vehicle (a Lenco Bearcat) Display:
Snohomish County Deputy Marcus Dill
Snohomish County Deputy Brandon McCullar
Judge Carol A. McRae
Judge Beth Fraser
St. Pius X