Students get look at judicial system

A group of 22 Greenwich High School (GHS) students got a first-hand look at the judicial system last month with a guided tour of the Stamford Courthouse as part of the Connecticut Bar Association’s (CBA) Connecticut Court Visitation Program.

The CBA program allows students in grades seven to 12 to visit a courtroom and witness real-life criminal court proceedings. The goal of the program is to acquaint students with the basic steps used in both civil and criminal court procedures and to demonstrate to them the responsibilities of citizens in the American legal system.

Teachers Lucy Arecco, Susan Norris-Oliva, and teacher’s aide Mary Scott, accompanied the students to the courthouse where CBA member Attorney Mark Durkin provided them with a guided tour. Marshal Troy Pivarnik explained the roles of court staff and escorted the students to a lock-up area for observation. Additionally, students were addressed by Judge Bruce Hadock, who stressed the importance of internships and volunteering.

The students were also privy to closing arguments in a civil case and criminal arraignments. Mr. Durkin answered questions about what the students witnessed and engaged them in a conversation about the court process and the roles of attorneys.

According to the students, attending court was beneficial to understanding how our justice system operates. The students are enrolled in the school’s Law in America course, a law course that introduces students to the concepts and procedures behind civil and criminal law. The visit gave the students a real-life view illustrating many of the topics from class, such as negligence, damages, arraignment, and the roles of the various individuals in the courthouse, such as the attorneys, judges, marshals and clerks.

Mr. Durkin not only provided a guided tour of the courthouse, but went the extra mile by visiting the students in their classroom for advance preparation. He has been involved in the Connecticut Court Visitation Program for more than six years. Mr. Durkin practices in Stamford and his experience with litigation contributes to his knowledge of the Judicial system and the court process.

“Since its inception in 1980, the Connecticut Court Visitation Program has become a standard part of the curriculum in many schools in the state and more than 84,000 students from public and private middle schools and high schools throughout the state have participated in the program,” Superior Court Judge Seymour L. Hendel, Chair of the Court Visitation Program, said.

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