Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holding Court in Mansfield

Yesterday the Ohio Supreme Court traveled to Mansfield as part of our Off-Site Court Program. Twice a year we travel across the state and hear cases in a county courthouse or at a school.

More than 500 students from 11 schools in Richland County heard one of three oral arguments at Mansfield Senior High School. You can watch a video of the students’ experience here.

But before you click the video and see the process that allows the justices to hold an official court session outside of Columbus, you may be interested in a bit of history.

In the court’s very early days, there were only 3 Supreme Court “judges” instead of 7 justices.  And there was no separate courthouse in which to hear cases. Instead, the judges rode throughout the state on horseback. They called this travel “riding the circuit.” The judges carried law books along with clothing in their saddlebags, and they stayed overnight in homes of local residents when they travelled to a county. 

By 1834, Supreme Court judges rode more than 2,000 miles each year and covered 72 counties across the state. Those pioneer judges really needed an automobile!

Fast forward more than 100 years, and you now see the court again going out to Ohioans. I enjoy our twice-a-year journey because the Off-Site Court Program gives students a chance to see us in action and directly experience oral arguments.  And as a 21st century justice, I’m glad we don’t spend those hours on horseback.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Not Just Miss Manners! The Civility Project

Last month my post talked about the new Courtroom to Classroom project sponsored by the Ohio Supreme Court. Today, I’m happy to mention another program.

The Middle School Civility Project is a package of seven lessons available to middle school teachers with embedded links and references.  And these civility lessons are more than about etiquette.

In these times of increased social media and less face-to-face-contact, students need to see that it is important to respect and value their peers and act civilly toward others, particularly when disagreements arise. When middle school students don’t know how to react to conflict or pressure from their classmates, teachers, and parents, they may cope by disruptive behavior and bullying.

In an effort to address civility and teach students how to avoid patterns of behavior that harm others, OCLRE developed new curriculum in a series of activities designed to help students become aware of their rights and responsibilities and respond to conflict with others through mediation. Students are also shown how to start a service learning project in their schools.

The civility project lessons include:

·         What Is Civility?
·         Acts of Civility Around School
·         Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities
·         Communication and Conflict Resolution

It’s hoped that early lessons about respect for others and the appropriate ways of handling disputes might counteract the development of later criminal behavior. These lessons are intended to help teachers assist their young students in becoming better citizens.

The curriculum can be used in the classroom or as a project for OCLRE’s Youth for Justice program. It is supported by The Thomas J. Moyer Legacy Committee of the Ohio State Bar Association and funded by the Ohio State Bar Foundation.