Court close-up: Students explore 24th District on Law Day

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Michigan State Police bomb technician Detective Sgt. Ashland Bray shows a bomb-detecting robot to students Friday during the 32nd annual Judge Michael T. Russell Law Day, held at 24th District Court.

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Allendale Elementary School student Morgan Fluellen, 11, does pull-ups Friday with the help of U.S. Marine Sgt. William Armstrong as part of the 32nd annual Judge Michael T. Russell Law Day, held at 24th District Court.

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — In a library in the 24th District Court, 13-year-old Jason Hamilton shifts in his seat.

Closed-circuit television cameras broadcast his movements to the courtroom as he awaits arraignment before Judge Richard Page on one count of misdemeanor retail fraud. He stands charged with stealing a video game system from a local store.

“He stole from Meijer twice before,” a witness says.

Her allegations are met with giggles from the audience and funny faces from the defendant on the television screen.

The mock arraignment is part of the 32nd annual Judge Michael T. Russell Law Day, in which students from several area schools and some who are home schooled participate in mock trials and arraignments, tour the court and speak to representatives from the military and local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Students got the chance to climb inside a U.S. Marine Corps tank, see a Michigan State Police bomb-detecting robot and chat with agents from the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other law enforcement representatives.

The program also includes a poster contest and essay contest where students interpreted this year’s theme, “The Legacy of John Adams.”

Chief Judge John Courtright said the program is a way to introduce students to the court and legal process while influencing their life choices in a positive direction. He told one group how his bad decision to dive into a shallow pool at age 13 resulted in his paralysis.

“The only reason I became a judge was because I went to school and studied hard,” Courtright said. “I qualified myself to become a judge and I’ve been really blessed in that respect to carry out my life even though I have this injury. One of the keys to success is education and listening to our parents and teachers.”

He said the program is geared to try to show children what can happen if they make poor decisions.

“We really try to relate to their young lives, the choices they are making and how they can affect their future,” Courtright said.

Ann Smalley of Brownstown Township said she brought her 12-year-old daughter, Melanie, to the event as an extension of her home school lessons. She and a group of other home schooled children toured the court together.

“They can see what the court system is like,” Smalley said. “Hopefully, it will discourage them from getting in trouble and going through that.”