Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Students Sense Possibilities in Law After Historic Visit

A unique experience at an eastern Ohio high school allowed students to see and consider a career in the legal profession.

Approximately 450 students from Jefferson and Harrison counties were recently at Buckeye Local High School to watch Supreme Court of Ohio cases in person. It was the first time the Off-Site Court Program was held Jefferson County. The program has now traveled to 73 counties allowing over 34,000 students to see the state’s high court up close.

“I thought it was very interesting to see how it all goes down. The entire process is so formal from how the cases are set up to how everyone talks to each other,” said Elizabeth Stock, a senior at Buckeye Local.

She saw how opposing sides present their arguments to the seven justices who would determine if laws were properly applied. There were no witnesses or jurors like you see in a trial court. At this level of appeal, they are not re-trying the case, only making their argument on legal issues. And each side was limited to 15 minutes of oral arguments. The justices often take up much of the time with questions, as they work to get at the heart of the legal or constitutional issues of the appeal.

Several students said it was their first real exposure to the judicial system having never seen a real court case or met a lawyer. In her remarks to the students, Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy said she is hopeful Off-Site Court will spark an interest in the legal profession for an area in need of more lawyers. She said a county is legally underserved when there is less than one attorney per 700 people. Between Jefferson and Harrison counties, the chief justice stated there are 55 private practice attorneys for a population of 78,474 people. That averages to one attorney for every 1,427 people.

“Our profession needs smart young people like yourselves to serve your community,” Chief Justice Kennedy told the young people, encouraging them to consider a career helping people in need in their hometown.

While Off-Site Court gives students a better understanding of the Supreme Court process, it also gives teenagers the opportunity to learn more about the justices and attorneys who are part of that system. Before the first case, the justices took questions from the students that ranged from knowing more about their judicial responsibilities to how and why the justices joined the Supreme Court. Many students were surprised to hear the varied backgrounds of the justices that include career pivots from politics, police work, and music.

“I figured they had their life set and this is what they wanted to do,” said Noah Jock, also a senior at Buckeye Local. “So, it was interesting to hear how things can change at any moment and how you can to achieve new career goals, as long as you try.”

After each case, the students got a chance to ask questions of the attorneys who argued the cases. Each side went into more detail about their case. Students followed with their own questions about the cases involving a traffic stop, a public records request, and public utility rights on private property.

“It’s a reminder of why we should know our constitutional rights because if it’s something that can happen any day, like getting pulled over by police. You should know what's allowed, and how to handle that situation,” said Stock.

The students were curious to know more about the attorneys themselves and the work they do. They learned the differences that come with being a prosecutor, defense lawyer, and appellate attorney. The students also got a better sense of the hours of research, writing, and practicing arguments that go into trial and appellate cases. One of the students saw similarities in how he and his classmates work through projects. And how that could translate to the practice of law.  

“You and your friends discuss a topic, you lay out all the possibilities, and ask what the best option is. That's what the justices and lawyers were doing with the laws,” said Jock.