The Vermont Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in five cases at Woodstock Union High School & Middle School on Thursday, October 12th.
The Justices normally hold term in the Supreme Court building in Montpelier, but each fall the Court holds a term “On the Road” at a superior court courthouse. This marks the first time cases will be heard at a high school in Vermont. The school’s auditorium will be turned into a courtroom for the day so that students and teachers can experience the appellate process. Arguments will follow the same pattern as ones held in the Supreme Court courtroom. Each side will have fifteen minutes to argue its case.
The goal of this unique event is to help students understand Vermont’s judicial system by providing students with the opportunity to observe the state’s highest court up close and to interact with the Supreme Court Justices. For many, the judicial branch is the least understood branch of government, and “On the Road” is a way to show the community how it works.
“It’s incumbent on judges and lawyers to support outreach and education,” Chief Justice Paul Reiber said. “This will be a live lesson in civics.”
Woodstock High School Principal Garon Smail has arranged for approximately 400 students to view the hearings. Principal Smail said, “In schools we strive to engage our students in authentic learning experiences. This event offers students an incredible opportunity to witness our law-based society in action and up close.”
Vermont Supreme Court Justice Harold E. Eaton, Jr., a 1973 graduate of Woodstock High, suggested holding term at his alma mater.
“We would like to thank Woodstock High School for hosting and giving us the opportunity to educate young students on the importance of the judicial branch of government,” Justice Eaton said. “It shouldn’t just be judges and attorneys who understand how it works. It needs to be everybody.”
Question and answer sessions with the Justices will be held in the morning and afternoon. The Justices will have lunch with students in the school’s cafeteria.
The public is welcome to attend the hearings. Principal Smail will also be extending invitations to surrounding schools to attend the event. Existing rules of etiquette apply for members of the public and for the media during court proceedings. Everyone will be required to go through routine security screening, so an early arrival is advisable.