Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : May 2007

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There to Help

~For Law Day, Wicomico County Bar Association brings “at-risk” youth before the bench~

On May 1, 13 underprivileged and “at-risk” children from Salisbury Urban Ministries Organization encountered the judicial system in a positive light in an event organized by the Wicomico County Bar Association (WCBA) in recognition of Law Day.

“It helped expose the children to the judicial system in a positive way,” says WCBA’s Nancy Cher-noff, who, along with the Honorable Kathleen Beckstead and Franzella Starkey, planned the event. “It reinforces that the judicial system is there to help them.”

Ranging in age from 12 to 16, the children began the day by observing Beckstead’s courtroom. Beckstead addressed them afterward, offering a lesson in proper courtroom etiquette. A tour of the courthouse rounded out the morning, while the children were offered various informative presentations after lunch.

The Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department presented an overview of what the sheriffs’ duties are. The EXILE Program presented the dangers of gangs and stressed the importance of gang-resistance. The court stenographer explained her job in the courtroom and also explained to the children the career path of a stenographer. The day was ended with a tour of the jail.

Each child was also given an assignment – a set of questions requiring answers drawn from their observations or by asking questions of the presenters – to be completed throughout the course of the day.

“You could see a difference in the children,” Chernoff notes. “They were proud of themselves.”

The American Bar Association (ABA) recognizes May 1 as Law Day. The ABA nationally supports programs to educate and enhance the legal profession to students. Around the state, local and specialty bar associations hold their own Law Day celebrations. (The MSBA has chosen to hold its own Law Day events later in the month, to avoid a conflict of interest.) This year, similar programs included: the Harford County Bar Association, working in conjunction with the JAG Office at Aberbeen Proving Ground; the Prince George’s County Bar Association, which hosted a luncheon honoring the competitors in the Seventh Circuit Mock Trial Competition, had the Honorable Toni E. Clarke speak, and hosted a Naturalization Ceremony performed by the Honorable C. Philip Nichols, Jr. Also in Prince George’s County, the State’s Attorney General sponsored a Law Day directed at students. Topics covered included student safety, careers and law school admission.

These special days are meant to give the youth a perspective on the legal profession that they might not see otherwise.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: May  2007