The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will travel to two area high schools next week, giving students and staff a rare opportunity to engage in the proceedings of the state’s highest court.

The court will hear three appeals each at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris and Leavitt Area High School in Turner beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. These events are part of a larger program by the state to expose students to the judiciary branch of government.

Teachers will share with students copies of court briefs in advance of the cases. Students will be able to ask the lawyers questions after the cases are heard, and, when the cases are decided months later, schools will receive a link to the decisions.

In each case, the Supreme Judicial Court will be tasked with determining whether or not the law was applied correctly. There are judges, but no jury in appeals.

“We hope that providing real-time exposure to the third branch of government supplements the students’ civics education and exposes Maine learners to the concept of justice,” Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill said in a prepared statement. “The practice of appellate law is rarely seen on television or in the movies.”

Leavitt Area High School Principal Eben Shaw said he’s excited for students to learn how the judicial branch operates.


“Unless you’re in the field, you don’t get to experience it, and the Supreme Court, when they’re in session, there’s not a lot of opportunity for the public to see what’s going on,” Shaw said. “Anytime the kids get a chance to see how things happen in real life . . . it’s a good experience.”

Julie Finn, a legislative analyst in Maine’s judicial branch, said judges and lawyers also appreciate holding court in a different locations and getting out in the community. She said the judicial branch is often the branch of government which is talked about the least.

“Just seeing (the court) from a perspective that’s not personal . . . for students to see that, and see it in a real way, not in an overdramatized TV way” is “invaluable for them,” Finn said.

Since 2005, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has traveled to 40 high schools around the state to hear oral arguments in actual appeals cases so students can observe the process.

State Rep. Sawin Millett of Waterford and state Sen. Jeffrey Timberlake of Turner each invited the court to visit the high schools which serve their respective communities.

Oxford Hills students will hear arguments from State of Maine v. Dana Healey, Deanna Dorsey v. Northern Light Heath et al., and State of Maine v. Duane Marquis.

Leavitt students will hear arguments from Stephen T. Witham v. Board of Trustees of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, State of Maine v. Douglas Wilcox and State of Maine v. Mark D. Penley.

“It is such a great opportunity for the kids, and I’m super appreciative that the court reached out and was willing to come down,” Shaw said. “I feel very fortunate that they did reach out to us.”

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