Court Camps Grow in Popularity as FBA and Judges Prepare Students for The Future
By Judge Michael J. Newman
Watch for court camps to trend in 2017 as a growing number of federal courts, FBA chapters, and law schools come together to bring students into courtrooms and law school classrooms. Court camps – known by different names in different jurisdictions – are like summer sports camps or language camps. They are a kind of immersion program for high school students who are future jurors, judges, lawyers, expert witnesses, litigants, journalists, media consumers, public officials, policy makers, and engaged citizens.
Pictured Above: Two FBA members -- U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco, and president of the Eastern District of NY Chapter Dina Miller -- joined forces to create the first-ever court camp. They are planning now for the second-annual Justice Institute in July.
A Day Camp Model
FBA member and civics liaison U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco, with FBA Chapter President Dina Miller, pioneered the first, court-sponsored, multi-day camp in the summer of 2016. The law school at Touro Law Center, across the street from the courthouse, offered another venue and law professors who gave the teens a law school experience. Law school students were mentors and coaches for the culminating mock trial competition on the last day.
The success of the first Justice Institute, for 90 students from 20 Long Island schools, set the stage for the program to become an annual event with the second Institute coming up in July, 2017. The camp, which is free to participants, offers positive experiences in the courts and exposure to justice system careers and the people who serve in them.
The camp includes court observations and student simulations in courtrooms as well as lectures on teen-relevant topics by law professors. The culminating activity for the week is a mock trial competition in courtrooms presided over by judges and coached by FBA lawyers. The participants’ parents are invited to attend.
A Residential Camp Model
The leadership of FBA member Rob Clark, of Salt Lake City, has established a program for teens that will be launched this summer as the first-ever residential court camp. The Civics, Law and Leadership Youth Camp, scheduled July 31 to August 4, 2017, is for civic-minded high school leaders who will spend five days at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School in Provo, Utah.
In addition to learning about the law, observing live courtroom proceedings, and participating in student simulations of different kinds of hearings, this camp can help students develop leadership skills. Students will practice civil discourse, advocating for issues, planning and conducting productive meetings, and making a positive contribution on a committee.
Personal interaction with professionals in the legal field puts a human face on the justice system, fosters candid conversations, and inspires young people to pursue careers in every aspect of the law.
Students will leave the camp better equipped to compare real-life courts to those portrayed in the media; better prepared to become civically engaged in issues of importance to them, and better informed about how courts work and what careers are available to them in the justice system.