Special to BIZ. Magazine
Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John L. Weimer presented the Court’s inspirational Judges in the Classroom/Students in the Courtroom initiative on Friday, May 21, 2021, before the Louisiana Commission on Civic Education at the State Capitol. The Chief Justice was eager to share with the Commission and Commission Chair, Judge Wendell Manning, the court’s strategy for encouraging Louisiana’s judges to visit elementary, middle, and high schools to present civics education instruction.
During his presentation, Chief Justice Weimer mentioned retired 4th Judicial District Judge Benjamin Jones, who, in 2001, developed the Judges in the Classroom initiative to bring Louisiana judges to classrooms to engage in civics education. As a former teacher of law and ethics at Nicholls State University, Chief Justice Weimer spoke about how interactions in his community made a difference in his life. For that reason, he encouraged judges to engage with current students. Chief Justice Weimer said, “The more time judges spend in classrooms instructing young people about the consequences of inappropriate behavior, the importance of personal responsibility, the value of education, and how all are equal in a court of justice, the less time judges will have to spend in the courtroom, which is beneficial to society.” Fourth Judicial District Court Judge C. Wendell Manning, who also has long advocated for judges serving as teachers, said, “I commend Chief Justice Weimer’s efforts to engage scholastic organizations in collaboration with district courts in outreach that will improve civics education in Louisiana schools.”
On Saturday, May 22, 2021, Chief Justice Weimer also met with attendees of the 23rd Annual Meeting and Continuing Legal Education of the Louisiana Judicial Council, a local branch of the National Bar Association. The National Bar Association, founded in 1925, is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges. During his meeting with participating judges, Chief Justice Weimer spoke on the Judges in the Classroom/Students in the Courtroom initiative, which was met with great interest by those in attendance.
So passionate is the Court about developing the Judges in the Classroom/Students in the Courtroom initiative, it has included programming during judicial education classes, which consists of an informative video and ideas for bringing the program to the community. The judicial education program is led by 24th JDC Judge Shayna Beevers Morvant, president, Louisiana
Center for Law and Civic Education; 32nd JDC Judge Randall L. Bethancourt; retired 4th JDC Judge Benjamin Jones; and 4th JDC Judge C. Wendell Manning. The informational video promotes judicial engagement in the classroom and includes footage of judges instructing students and the impact of that engagement on students. Additionally, judges will learn about “Crime, Consequences and the Power of Choice” in a presentation by Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton and 1st JDC Judge Karelia Stewart.
Courts often schedule student visits surrounding Law Day activities each year in May and on Constitution Day in September; however, Chief Justice Weimer is encouraging judges to further engage in their local school systems. He is building on the initial program by asking judges to not only invite students to the courtrooms for Law Day, but also to visit schools in their districts and invite students to state courthouses year-round.
The Supreme Court has also partnered with Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in expanding the program and engaging Louisiana students with facts and information about our state’s judicial system and to improve civic education throughout the state of Louisiana. The presentation to the Louisiana Commission on Civic Education highlighted possibilities for more collaborative efforts with the Court. As the Court maintains its responsibility to the rule of law, it also observes its allegiance to improving its community by reaching out to future generations and positively affecting the future of many.
“I truly believe that judges can make a significant contribution to educating young people about the role of the courts in our system of government,” said Chief Justice Weimer.