Fairbanks high school students get firsthand look at judicial system

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Around 450 local high school students had the chance to listen to oral arguments presented to the Alaska Supreme Court today. The opportunity came from the Supreme Court Live program, in the state, that brings the Supreme Court to schools to help students better understand the judicial system and get to see it in action.

The opportunity came from the Supreme Court Live program, in the state, that brings the Supreme Court to schools to help students better understand the judicial system and get to see it in action. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

“It’s a great opportunity to see something live and real in action as a citizen of the borough and the state in a really pertinent matter,” said Sarah Gillam, principal of West Valley High School.

The students filed through the metal detectors before being ushered into their seats in the West Valley Performing Arts Center. After a short introduction from Chief Justice Joel Bolger, the attorneys began their oral arguments to the panel of five justices.

John McKay and Susan Orlansky where arguing as Amici Curiae, or friends of the court, for Kaleb Basey in the case, Kaleb Lee Basey v. State of Alaska, Department of Public Safety.

Kimber Rodgers was representing the Department of Public Safety.

The Supreme Court will be deciding whether disciplinary records of public officials, specifically Alaska State Troopers, are public records that must be released.

Each side had 30 minutes to present their oral arguments and answer questions from the justices.

The school had two students keep time. Dominique Hinds was one of the students who helped keep time for the attorneys.

“As I was sitting next to them, I kind of felt scared,” Hinds said. “I was like man these people are very high positions of power but during the questions and answers period, I realized they’re humans to, they make mistakes, but they’re human as well and I am actually, as a normal citizen, an ordinary guy, can be up there as well. I can become a judge. I think that’s what I learned, I have power as an individual, as an ordinary guy.”

After the oral arguments, the students had a chance to ask questions of the attorneys and justices.

Once a year the Supreme Court picks a high school in the state to host Supreme Court Live. Starting several months before the case, attorneys go to the school and go over the case with students and help

them understand the process.

Meredith Montgomery, Clerk of the Appellate court says she hopes that this program will help more students become engaged citizens.

“Even if we just get them excited about some aspect of participating in government in some way we are very satisfied with that,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said they have already seen results. One of the trial judge law clerks that recently graduated law school told them that he was at a Supreme Court Live when it came to his school and he wanted to go to law school after that.

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