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Elementary school students across Maryland were introduced to the judicial system last week during the first “Reading & Robes” event, an initiative of the Maryland Judiciary. Maryland judges from various jurisdictions read aloud to young students from books that are culturally diverse and include the themes of justice, fairness, and the law. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story, was the featured book for the program. Students also received a copy of The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall’s Life, Leadership, and Legacy.

Chief Judge E. Gregory Wells of the Appellate Court of Maryland said “Talking to the kids about what we do is important, especially to help them understand that we really have their best interest in mind and that we care about our community. Programs like this are invaluable to helping us connect.” Judge Cheri Simpkins, District Court for Prince George’s County, agreed. “It is very important for children to see people who look like them and come from the neighborhoods they come from in these roles. Representation matters.”

MSBA and the Maryland Bar Foundation were proud to sponsor Reading & Robes, an initiative of the National Judicial College, which was made possible through a grant from the Maryland Bar Foundation and the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Education Fund. Other partners included the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association, the Harry A. Cole Judicial Council, and the ABA National Conference of Specialized Court Judges. MSBA provided pencil cases and Constitution-themed coloring books that each student received in a backpack along with a copy of one of the books read.

Reflecting on the day, Judge Donnaka Varner Lewis, District Court for Prince George’s County, said “It was just an amazing experience to be able to connect with [the students] and see their excitement. It was an incredible opportunity to interact with them one-on-one and answer their questions.” Judge Wayne Brooks, District Court for Howard County, said his favorite part of the day “was getting the opportunity to read about one of my heroes, Thurgood Marshall, because he was such a personal inspiration to me in my journey and life. We have similar backgrounds and I have always felt a connection to him. It was an honor to pass along this inspirational message to the next generation.”

Judges Wayne Brooks, Pamila Brown, and Danielle Mosley