“Does the witness have a subpoena or not?”
It might sound like a question from a judge, opposing counsel or court clerk, but this was in fact a question from a ninth-grade student at the recent Civics and Law Academy hosted by the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in partnership with the Baltimore County Bar Association and Baltimore County Public Schools. Baltimore County attorneys and judges spent the morning talking to students about the role of law in our society and the importance of understanding their important responsibilities as active citizens.
Each of the students attended three of the four special-interest sessions on the topics of Rights and Responsibilities (presented by Ari J. Kodeck and Todd deStowolinski); Law and Justice (presented by Adam Sean Cohen and Larry Polen); Free Speech, School Speech and Protected Speech (presented by the Hon. Judith C. Ensor and Adam E. Konstas); Power and Empowerment (presented by Sarah R. David – the author of this blog — and Whitney E. Wilder); and Law in a Cyber-Age (presented by Scott D. Shellenberger, Baltimore County state’s attorney, and Christopher W. Nicholson). Students also heard presentations from the Y of Central Maryland on the Youth & Government and Leaders’ Club programs, as well as from representatives from CCBC Admissions & Financial Aid to talk about enrollment and to answer any questions.
The Civics and Law Academy was the brainchild of Judge Pamila Brown. The program started in 2011 following the state’s elimination of the government portion of the high school assessment test. It was modeled after the signature program of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Civic Education in the Nation’s Schools.
This year’s program was organized by Laurie Wasserman, Esq. of the Law Office of Laurie Wasserman, who specializes in family law. Wasserman discusses the importance of this program, stating: “When high school students can learn about civics and law from lawyers and judges — on a college campus — it opens their eyes to future education and career opportunities. It is truly one of the best programs that the Baltimore County Bar Association offers to the community.”
The question from the ninth grader at the beginning of this article came in response to the question about whether testifying in court was a moral or a legal duty. The budding lawyer wisely needed more information to answer the question and asked for clarification on an important fact required for her answer. As lawyers, we sometimes forget that our way of thinking and our skill set is such an important tool for advocacy and community involvement. It is important that we, as a profession, engage with young people about the important role we can play in empowering individual voices. Seek out opportunities to take part of your day to learn from and to teach others about our important voice — it may just be a moral duty to spread the word about the legal world.