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Judges and Lawyers Engage Students in Conversations About the Constitution

Students in a Miami federal courtroom participate in a program on the Constitution and civil discourse.

South Florida high school students gathered in a Miami federal courtroom and virtually in classrooms for an interactive program on the Constitution and civil discourse.

More than 550 students at South Florida high schools engaged in a day of candid conversations with federal judges and attorneys about the Constitution, civil discourse, and solid decision-making skills in the law and in teens’ lives. The event was part of a monthlong national celebration of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

More than 40 judges and lawyers facilitated a highly interactive program, Civil Discourse and the Constitution: Candid Conversations, conducted virtually in classrooms and in-person in a Miami courtroom on Sept. 22. The program was created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and organized by Federal Bar Association (FBA) members.

“These programs put a human face on the justice system for students who have little or no real-life exposure to the people who make it work,” said Judge Beth Bloom, of the Southern District of Florida, who hosted a group in her Miami courtroom. “By teaching and modeling civility and solid decision-making, judges and lawyers can give students a real-life experience of the importance of these skills.”

During sessions throughout the day, students in the Miami metropolitan area and in West Palm Beach learned about the importance of civility when talking through controversial issues in the law and in life.

Judges and volunteer FBA attorneys from the 11th Circuit and other regions engaged with students during the all-day civics event. The courts and local chapters of the FBA expect to conduct more conversations with young people across the nation as members take the program from the conference to their communities.

“If our Constitution and the legal system are to remain strong and resilient, we need to share our knowledge and appreciation of the courts with the next generation of judges, jurors, lawyers, legal journalists, and engaged citizens,” said W. West Allen, the current FBA president who has continued the association’s tradition of assisting federal courts with educational outreach.

FBA chapters in Florida-Southern have been active for the past six years in the federal courts’ national civil discourse and decision-making initiative. For this event, FBA chapters recruited schools, oriented teachers, and co-facilitated the student sessions with judges.

“This event is a variation on Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions, which federal courts have conducted in the Eleventh Circuit and nationally since 2016,” said Judge Robin L. Rosenberg, the Southern District of Florida. “Judges and lawyers have joined forces to instill in students the vital civil discourse and decision-making skills that will serve them well in the law and in life.”

The Florida event, which was part of the FBA’s national conference in Miami, was one of many federal courts’ Constitution Day-related programs scheduled across the country throughout September. Programs included naturalization ceremonies at baseball games, on college campuses, and at community landmarks. The events commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

Related Topics: Events and Ceremonies, Public Education