Local high school students, and members of the local public, have a rare opportunity to see the Ohio Supreme Court up close and in session.
The highest court in the state, the seven-member Ohio Supreme Court, will be at Montpelier Schools from 8-11 a.m. Wednesday on official business: They will hear oral argument from attorneys in three actual cases.
The Off-Site Court event is free and open to the public in the Montpelier school auditeria, beginning with a question-and-answer session at 8 a.m. and oral arguments starting promptly at 9 a.m.
School officials said members of the public will be subject to security screenings and checks and advised attendees to arrive early and park in the back of the Montpelier school building.
All high school students from seven high schools in the county will attend the proceedings for one of the three cases in groups of about 200 per case. Students will then attend a summary with attorneys who have just made their oral arguments. The attorneys will be available to answer questions following their hearing, Montpelier High School Principal Su Thorp said.
She said Montpelier High will include lesson plans for students that tie in with the court and its proceedings.
“We’re (also) encouraging anyone interested in government or how our (Supreme) Court works to come. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Thorp said, adding that Montpelier was chosen because it provides the best layout to accommodate the court and a number of visitors.
“Every school district will be represented when the Supreme Court comes (to Montpelier),” said Williams County Magistrate Karen Gallagher, who noted the potential educational and vocational impact this visit could have.
“... I believe that at some point this will be inspiring enough that there will be students that go to this who say, ‘You know what, I’m going to law school to go down the path that will make me one of those.’ I think that can happen,” Gallagher told members of the Bryan Rotary Club recently.
The three cases to be heard include a criminal case surrounding the legal distinction between domestic abuse and allowable parental discipline; another concerning the logistical validity of a search warrant; and a case involving a Youngstown school district.
In 1987, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer created the Ohio Supreme Court’s Off-Site Educational Program, which has brought the state’s biggest cases to 77 counties since its inception, according to Sara Stiffler, manager of civic education for the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Stiffler said the Supreme Court was invited to Williams County by Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Steven R. Bird, and the court had “worked closely” with Bird, Williams County Common Pleas Court Administrator Kim Coller on behalf of Common Pleas Court Judge J.T. Stelzer and Gallagher to plan the visit.
“It’s really exciting having them here. It’s a huge honor, not just for court personnel and the public, but it’s a great educational opportunity for our local (high school) students as well,” Bird said.
The highest court in the state of Ohio, the Supreme Court of Ohio is the final authority over interpretations of Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution. The court has seven members, a chief justice and six associate justices, each serving six-year terms.
For more information, visit the Ohio Supreme Court website, www.supremecourt.ohio.gov.