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Judges key ambassadors for marking Constitution Day this month

Dave Stafford
September 11, 2013
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Rites celebrating our rights will take place across Indiana on Sept. 17, the 10th official observation of Constitution Day.

This year, judges around the state reached out to schools and teachers in their counties offering to speak to classes primarily in grades four through 12. The Division of State Court Administration encouraged judges to talk to students about how the state and federal constitutions are amended.

“One of the things we wanted to show the kids was, people talk about the constitutions as being living documents, but do they really process that and understand what it means?” said Elizabeth Osborn, coordinator for court history and public education programs at the Indiana Supreme Court.

Osborn said at least 45 trial court judges, a Court of Appeals judge and Supreme Court justices plan to speak in at least 100 classrooms and reach more than 3,000 students. “We’ve been happily surprised,” she said.

State court administration has produced copies of state and U.S. constitutions and other materials for judges and court officers who will be talking with students.

Lake Superior Judge Julie Cantrell will be making her first Constitution Day presentation, and she recruited five judicial officers to speak to classes in northwest Indiana. Cantrell said she used Facebook to connect with teacher friends before putting a call out to judges and court officers.
 

constitutiondaymassa2012-15col.jpg Indiana Supreme Court Justice Mark Massa talked to students at Clark’s Creek Elementary School in Plainfield on Constitution Day 2012. The annual event on Sept. 17 marks the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Supreme Court)

Judges will be talking to students in fourth, fifth and eighth grades on Sept. 16, tailoring the content to specific standards for each level. “Basically the first activity is talking about what the Constitution is and why we have it,” Cantrell said. Then the classes will talk about the process of amending the state and federal charters.

She said she also intends to talk about local issues in the news that have been impacted by the Indiana Constitution.

On the other side of the state, Ohio-Dearborn Magistrate Kimberly Schmaltz has a full day of constitution instruction planned and will meet with every class at Manchester Elementary School in Aurora, where her daughter is a teacher.

“I think it’s really important for kids to get excited about the constitution and it’s so important that they have that foundation and appreciation of the freedoms they have,” Schmaltz said.constitutionday.gif

Schmaltz has done Constitution Day events for years and has a little something different for varying grades levels. Kids in kindergarten and first grade get to sign their names to replica constitutions, for instance. Second- and third-graders will learn fun facts about the constitutions.

For Schmaltz’s fourth- and fifth-grade classes, students will participate in mock trials and play roles as prosecutors, defendants, defense attorneys or jurors. Sixth-graders will take part in a true-false elimination quiz about the constitutions, with the last person standing crowned constitutional law champion.

But the sixth-graders of Manchester Elementary won’t be the only ones competing to be constitutional law champion. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana will sponsor Constitution Day Trivia Night from 6 to 9 p.m. at Black Acre Brewing Co., 5632 E. Washington St., Indianapolis. Tickets are $20 advance and $25 at the door.

Other events related to Constitution Day include:

At Indiana University Maurer School of Law on Sept. 17, Duke University law professor Jeff Powell will speak on presidential war powers and Syria.

At Notre Dame Law School on Sept. 18, 7th Circuit Judge David Hamilton will present “Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation – A View from the Front Lines.”•

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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