A group of Davis High School students got an up-close experience with the judicial system Wednesday when they participated in a special outreach session of the California Supreme Court at the King Hall School of Law at UC Davis.
The students heard oral agruments in a real case — Ralphs Grocery Co. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8. At issue is whether a private sidewalk — located in a privately owned South Sacramento shopping center, in front of a grocery store — should be considered a public forum in which free speech rights apply.
Preparations for the special court session have been under way for weeks. On Sept. 19, a group of more than 100 interested Davis High students met with appellate attorney Shama Mesiwala to learn more about the case. From that large group, teacher Peter Reilly selected 18 students to attend Wednesday’s session. Other students were able to follow the proceedings through a live webcast on the California Channel (www.calchannel.com). That video should remain available for viewing over the next few weeks.
Prior to the oral agruments, three DHS students — dressed in formal garb, just like the attorneys who were there to argue the case — asked questions of the justices.
Sophia Cardenas, a Davis High senior, addressed Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, a 1984 King Hall graduate, asking, “Do you have suggestions for lawyers appearing in your court? Advice for brief writing? Advice for oral arguments?”
Tessa Peters, another senior, asked Justice Joyce Kennard, “The California Supreme Court selects only a small number of cases each year. What factors do you consider when deciding to hear a case?”
And Daniel Tutt, also a senior, asked Justice Ming Chin, “What steps are taken to ensure that your rulings are both current and resilient?”
Tutt, 17, said afterwards that the prospect of standing up and addressing the seven justices in black robes left him “stressed to the point where I worried my heartbeat might be heard through the microphone.”
But he added that “coming away from it, I am probably significantly more likely to consider a career in law. It wasn’t like what you see on the TV shows. It was better.”
UCD law students Richard Andrews, Kelly Volkar, Alexander Rich and Margaret Alden Moody also got an opportunity to pose questions to the justices.
During the afternoon session, students from West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School and Woodland’s Pioneer High School also attended oral arguments relating to two different cases.
Reilly, who teaches government at DHS, said he was delighted to bring his students to a real Supreme Court session, so they could see the legal process in action at that high level.
“From a teacher perspective, I’m always trying to create dreams for kids, and show them that they are attainable,” Reilly said. “I’m hoping that they’ll become good active citizens in a democracy. We had Davis High students show interest in this project who come from families that are first-generation in this country.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.