By Andy Massanet, Fort Riley Public AffairsMay 19, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan, -- It was time to make their case.
A moot court session May 3, an event organized by Office of the Staff Judge Advocate and Junction City High School in observance of the National Law Day, featured students from Junction City High School and attorneys from the OSJA.
According to the website of the American Bar Association, this year's theme is the Sixth and 14th Amendments.
The Sixth Amendment sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions. The provisions include the right to a public trail without unnecessary delay, the right to an impartial jury, the right to face one's accusers and to have the assistance of defense counsel.
The 14th Amendment ensures citizens cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law or deny to any person the equal protection of the law and that Congress can enforce the provisions of this amendment by appropriate legislation.
Using the provisions of those amendments the students were asked to consider a case in which a man was accused of armed robbery. Although the man asked for legal counsel, the state in which he was tried declined to provide that counsel because, the state claimed, he was not indigent by its established definition.
The man was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.
Comprising three freshman, 15 sophomores and juniors, and two seniors, the class required the students to address the case.
Aaron Cox, teacher at JCHS, teaches Introduction to Public Law and Safety and it is designed to provide information to students interested in law and law enforcement so they can make educated decisions about those career fields.
When asked what he hopes his students take away from this class, Cox said, "I always aim high, but at a minimum, I hope they know a direction to take after high school. Now, some of my students are 14 or 15 years of age and a lot of things change for them. But at least this gives them the kind of engagement they need."
Cox said engagement means, "wanting to be involved in, and taking ownership of, their learning."
For Capt. Melissa A. Eisenberg, legal assistance attorney for the OSJA, much of what the students were judged on involved the presentation of their argument.
During preparation on May 1, Eisenberg and Capt. Clyde Kilgore, also of the OSJA, instructed the students to provide their name, who they are representing and their position and reasoning for that position.
"Your appearance is important," Eisenberg told the students. "Don't wear anything that distracts from the focus on your argument."
Eisenberg said students should were clothes that are clean, but unremarkable. Also, they should not chew gum. She added it's okay to have a sheet of paper with you points on them, "but don't read directly from the paper."
Kilgore added presenters should speak slowly and clearly. "You might be tempted to speak quickly to say more things," Kilgore said. "But try to avoid that. Speak slowly and clearly."
On May, students had to overcome butterflies to make their cases.
For sophomore Kilee Shuck, the most difficult thing was using the case law -- that is, applying decisions or "precedents" to their reasoning -- was difficult.
"I thought the hardest part was trying to figure out how each aspect of your evidence would fit into (case law)," Shuck said. "We had to form our argument based on that case and other cases."
But the exercise helped Shuck understand the U. S. Constitution's importance.
"It's made me much more aware of how the constitution affects the legal system and how, in any situation, if you are deprived of something then there is a way to make it right through the constitution," she said.
For sophomore Keith Womack, "the hardest thing was not knowing things were going to go. I don't like to be put on the spot in front of a lot of people, so I guess that was the hardest thing."
Like Shuck, Womack gained a better understanding of the rights the U. S. Constitution affords.
"Before I took this class I knew some of them (the parts of the constitution) but not all of them," he said. "But taking this class has made me understand them more, why there are set in place and why say what they say."
For Serene Podish, a paralegal from the OSJA and one of the judges, the speaking portion of moot court emphasized the need for "practice, practice, practice."
"As far as the Constitution, they (the students) all have that sense of what is right and what is wrong, but it's still important that they read and reference it," she said.