September 23, 2014

Court House Visit

In addition to working in Campus Ministry, I also teach two classes - AP US History and AP Government and Politics.  Today I took my AP Government and Politics class to the Federal District Court House in Concord for a tour.  We were planning on sitting in on a trial but like many, it was continued to a later date.  But we were treated to a lovely tour of the building and got to meet many people who work there.

We were greeted by Charli Pappas, a clerk for Chief Judge Joseph Laplante.  Charli has a wonderful British accent and was so generous with her time and knowledge.  She introduced us to Cathy Dube, the Jury Administrator who spoke to us about jury duty, how jurors are picked, their role, etc.  We then went to the clerk's office to learn about the administrative side of the court and to find out about the process of filing cases, the kinds of cases they get, looking cases up online, etc.  From here we met with Magistrate Judge Andrea Johnstone.  I must confess that I didn't know what a magistrate judge was until today - it's the judge that has the initial hearing of someone who's been arrested or is filing a civil suit.  She sets the bail conditions, trial dates, etc.  She wore her black robe, talked about her role, and took answers from me and the students.  She encouraged the students to come back someday to see a trial and a naturalization ceremony (I let her know that we hosted a naturalization ceremony in February).  

To wrap up our visit, we met with a U.S. Marshall who showed us their office in the building and the holding cells for prisoners/defendants.  We saw all the behind the scenes places including the attorney meeting rooms, booking room, etc.  This was very fascinating and was unexpected.  

The building itself was built in 1997 and the interior is a wonderful art deco style, it reminded me of Rockefeller Center in New York City.  They had wonderful historic art around the building as well as portraits of past judges (of which there have only been 17 since the court was founded in 1789).  We all then went for lunch at a local pizza place I know from my years of taking part in Youth and Government and then headed back to school.  It was a great visit and hopefully helped put a "face" to our class discussions.

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