Students at Cape Elizabeth High had a unique learning opportunity when their high school was turned into a real, working courtroom.
Since 2006, the Maine Supreme Court has turned 25 high school auditoriums into real, working courtrooms, where high school students listen as Maine lawyers give appellate arguments on real cases.
The students’ learning begins when they receive copies of each of the parties’ legal briefs in advance of the oral arguments. Afterward, the Maine lawyers stay to discuss the legal process and answer the student questions. When the case is ultimately decided, the school provides a link to the Court’s decision.
At Cape Elizabeth High, students heard Maine lawyers argue an appeal in the case of Timothy Bell. In the early morning hours of 2009, 13-year old Timothy Bell was injured as he returned home on his skateboard. His mother thought her son spent the night at a friend’s house. Instead, Bell had Rose Dawson lie to his mother about his whereabouts, and spent the night partying at the Dawson home. The Dawsons allowed Bell and a group of teenagers to smoke and party at their home while they (the Dawsons) were “drinking numerous alcoholic drinks”, according to Maine personal injury attorney Sheldon Tepler, who represents Bell’s parents.
Maine Personal injury attorney Sheldon Tepler of Hardy, Wolf, and Downing also noted that, “Not only did the defendants (the Dawsons) take control of a 13-year-old boy, but they did so deceptively and surreptitiously.” The Dawsons children are grown and were not home the night of the party.
Students watching the Maine lawyers argue the complexities of a real case received an invaluable window into the legal world. They gained perspective on how Maine’s legal system functions, what role personal injury lawyers play in the appeals process, and how real-life cases like Teresa Bell versus the Dawsons are argued in front of Maine’s panel of justices.
Programs like these are invaluable tools in education because they keep students engaged, connected and invested in their own learning. When education is relevant and compelling to young learners, student achievement is consistently higher and drop out rates lower. Let’s keep programs like these going strong, and we will ensure that Maine students are among our nation’s best.