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Law Day 2016: Courts Open Doors to Students

Students across the country participated in federal Judiciary celebrations of Law Day, engaging  in courtroom simulations that focused on the 50th anniversary of Miranda v. Arizona, texting while driving and the forced internment of Americans during wartime. 

In the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, high school students filled 13 courtrooms to take part in a simulation based on Korematsu v. United States. During the May 2 event, students played the roles of attorneys and jurors, arguing whether the forced internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II was constitutional.

“They actually get a little jazzed talking about things like constitutional law,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Lloret, of the Eastern District, said in a Judiciary video. “That’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling. It gives me a sense of having done something really valuable.”

Law Day, established in 1958, is officially honored May 1 but it has evolved into a month-long celebration across the nation. The following events were held at federal courts to educate the public about the Judiciary and the rule of law:

  • Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein, of the Central District of California, interviews retired Phoenix police Capt. Carroll Cooley about his role in the historic Miranda v. Arizona case.

    For students participating in Law Day activities at the Los Angeles courthouse, Bankruptcy Court Judge Sandra R. Klein interviews retired Phoenix Police Captain Carroll Cooley about his role in Miranda v. Arizona.

  • Students wave during a Law Day event in California, which commemorated the Miranda v. Arizona decision.

    Students at the Los Angeles courthouse wave during a Law Day event, where they learn about the consequences of waiving their Miranda rights.

  • Bankruptcy Judge Erithe Smith speaks to students at a Law Day event in Santa Ana, California.

    U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Erithe A. Smith welcomes students to the Santa Ana courthouse at its Federal Courthouse Exploration Day.

  • Renee Alexander (far right) speaks to students in Hartford, Connecticut, about how a courtroom functions. Alexander is judicial assistant and courtroom deputy to Senior District Judge  Alfred V. Covello.

    In Connecticut, Hartford students get a staff-guided tour of the courtroom before they try a civil case dealing with texting while driving.

  • In Hartford, Connecticut, Tom Ring, law clerk to Senior District Judge Dominic J. Squatrito, hands out pizza to students of the Robert J. O'Brien STEM Academy.

    Senior U.S. District Court Judge Dominic J. Squatrito serves pizza to Hartford students who played all the parts in a realistic courtroom hearing.

  • Participants at a Law Day event in Miami gather in the lobby of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse.

    Students from a Miami magnet high school for homeland security, forensic science, and law studies have a full day at the courthouse that includes observing sentencing hearings.

  • New citizens are sworn in at a federal courthouse ceremony in Cleveland.

    A naturalization ceremony is a living civics lesson for new citizens celebrating Law Day at the courthouse in Cleveland.

  • Michael J. Seng, a magistrate judge based within Yosemite National Park, congratulates essay contest winner Lilly Lessley.

    In Yosemite Valley, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng congratulates Lilly Lessley for her winning essay on Miranda rights at a ceremony near the Yosemite Courthouse.

  • At a Yosemite Valley ceremony, student essay contest winners are flanked by 16 federal and state judges.

    At a Yosemite Valley ceremony, student essay contest winners are flanked by 16 federal and state judges. 


In Los Angeles on April 12, 150 students from two high schools and a local college program attended a Law Day event hosted by the Central District of California. Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein took the lead in organizing the program, which focused on Miranda v. Arizona. Also taking part were District Court Judges J. Terry Hatter Jr., John  A. Kronstadt and Virginia A. Phillips; Magistrate Judges Rozella A. Oliver and Suzanne H. Segal; Chief Bankruptcy Judge Sheri Bluebond and Bankruptcy Judge Barry Russell; and California Superior Court Judge Melissa Widdifield. 

Highlighting the event was a talk by Carroll Cooley, a retired Phoenix police captain who arrested and interrogated Ernesto Miranda in 1963, while Cooley was a young police detective.

In addition, on April 29, the bankruptcy court’s Santa Ana, California, division welcomed students from the Samueli Academy for a “Federal Courthouse Exploration Day.” Judges, lawyers and judicial chambers staff led group discussions, and U.S. Bankruptcy Judges Erithe A. Smith and Sandra R. Klein spoke to the visiting students, who visited courtrooms and the bankruptcy clerk’s office.


In Hartford on May 2, students held a courtroom simulation involving an accident caused by a driver who was texting while driving.  Student attorneys, representing the plaintiff and defendant, questioned witnesses and argued their cases before a student judge and jury. Professional attorneys reviewed the students’ opening and closing arguments, while court staff explained the role of jurors to other students. The program was hosted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Richardson of the District of Connecticut.


On May 11, 52 high school students from the Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial High School heard a discussion of Miranda v. Arizona, a landmark 1964 decision that required police to warn criminal suspects in custody of their legal rights. Students also toured a U.S. Marshal’s facility, and viewed a mock trial and two sentencing hearings. The event was hosted by District Judge Beth Bloom and Bankruptcy Judge Laurel M. Isicoff, of the Southern District of Florida. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles spoke to the students.


The District of Minnesota’s annual Open Doors Law Day event focused on the post-Civil War amendments. Sixty volunteer lawyers and probation officers visited 29 social studies classrooms in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington public schools, discussing the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel organized the program, and moderated a school-assembly panel discussion of the amendments’ relevance today.  One panelist—Magistrate Judge Tony Leung, whose family came here from Hong Kong—discussed birthright citizenship, as set forth in the 14th Amendment.  


In Cleveland on May 20, the Northern District of Ohio held a naturalization ceremony at the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse, presided over by U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy A. Vecchiarelli.

Yosemite National Park

At an April 29 ceremony in Yosemite Park’s valley floor, elementary, middle and high school students listened to a discussion of Miranda v. Arizona, hosted by the Eastern District of California, which has a small magistrate judge’s courthouse in the park. Heather Williams, federal defender, and Kirk Sherriff, assistant U.S. attorney, delivered keynote addresses. Winning eighth-graders were honored for the essays on why Miranda rights are important to Americans.

Related Topics: Public Education