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By Joe Baxter, Smithfield High School
On April 6, Smithfield High School was lucky enough to welcome the Supreme Court of the State of Rhode Island. This visit was part of the high court’s “Ride the Circuit” Program where they visit one high school per year.
The day began with the hearing of oral arguments. The court session proceeded almost exactly as it would have in the Licht Judicial Complex in Providence. However, the justices and the attorneys were kind enough to deviate from their regular habits, by elaborating and explaining in detail what exactly was happening. This allowed students to understand, more fully, the facts of the cases and what exactly the lawyers were arguing.
The event was attended by many town officials as well as some residents of the town who wanted to partake in this once in a lifetime experience that some 200 SHS students were awarded.
After the two cases were heard, Chief Justice Paul Suttell and Associate Justices: Maureen McKenna Goldberg, Francis X. Flaherty, William P. Robinson III, and Gilbert V. Indeglia participated in a question and answer session with students.
The students in attendance are enrolled in Law I and II, Crime in America class, as well as an AP U.S. Government and Politics class. Students were intrigued by the complexity of the cases, but given their background from class they were able to follow along with the proceedings of the court. Students appeared to be interested, especially when there was a chuckle at a quick one liner from Justice Goldberg.
After court was dismissed, the justices deliberated the cases before joining about 20 students for lunch. This opportunity was especially rewarding for these students because they were able to meet one on one with Justices and learn about how they entered into their legal careers. The justices were able to share a wealth of information from their many experiences throughout their interesting lives. The justices imparted some advice about college, and they are some of the best people to learn from on this subject seeing as they all have at least two college degrees. Students were able to peer into what a judge’s or lawyer’s day consists, a valuable insight for students that are thinking about pursuing a career in law.
The one central message that the justices stressed was to make sure that we hit the books. They all made it abundantly clear that being successful in school can and will set you apart which will open many doors in your future. On the same token, Justice Goldberg spoke to those thinking about entering a career in law saying that law students need to develop a love for the English language, because that is the key to interpreting and applying the laws of our state and country. All in all, many students explained that they learned a lot from the day, and that it was something that they will probably never get to see again.