A record-setting 230 students and teachers from 30 different schools across Maryland convened for Law Day 2009, held May 13 at the Sheppard Pratt Conference Center in Baltimore.
Hosted by the MSBA Public Awareness Committee, in conjunction with the Citizenship Law-Related Education Program (CLREP), Law Day 2009 focused on “Law in Your Daily Life: Exploring the Law’s Impact on You”. The conference, provided free of charge to participants, kicked off with MSBA President Katherine Kelly Howard welcoming Law Day’s largest audience to date.
“The size of the crowd is a testament to the enthusiasm the youth bring to the law,” Howard remarked.
Highlights of this year’s program included a mock arrest and the announcement of the winners of MSBA’s YouTube Video Contest, who collectively received $1,000 in prize money. Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Maryland Court of Appeals, also spoke to the audience on the importance of the Rule of Law.
“You (students) are here to get your education in the law, and you will become ambassadors of sorts to those who are not here,” said Bell. “You now must build a bridge back to your fellow students when you go home, so they understand the importance of the law, the importance of the legal system and the importance of the Law in Your Daily Lives.”
Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Court of Appeals of Maryland; Katherine Kelly Howard, MSBA President; and Alice Chong, Chair MSBA Public Awareness Committee.
Students then broke into two workshop sessions, the first of which addressed such topics as “Restorative Justice & the Juvenile Justice System”; “Health Care Law: What Every Teen Should Know”; “Trial Procedures in the Adult Court”; and “Students’ Constitutional Rights in School”. Students attending the “Trial Procedures in Adult Court” session were taken by surprise when Public Awareness Committee member Michael Siri was “arrested” in the classroom by a team of Baltimore City police, giving the students a firsthand view of the procedure, from arrest to trial.
Topics in the second round of workshop sessions included “MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and More: How Your Online Reputation May Precede You”; “Building Your Credit Reputation & Preventing Identity Theft”; and “Your Rights in the Workplace”. Led by William McComas, the “MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and More” session was highlighted on a WBAL-TV news segment later that evening.
“We look for topics that would be interesting to teens,” said Alice Chong, Chair of the MSBA Public Awareness Committee. “We wanted to educate teens on their credit rights, their rights in the legal system, as well as the dangers of the Internet.”
WBAL-TV reporter Tim Tooten (left) interviews MSBA President Katherine Kelly Howard. Tooten's report on Law Day 2009 aried on WBAL's evening news broadcast.
“This is an opportunity to educate young people and teachers about the legal system,” commented Rick Miller, Executive Director of CLREP, which co-sponsored the program.
Following lunch, the Gandhi Brigade (which produced MSBA’s promotional video for the YouTube contest) addressed attendees regarding “Youth Advocacy Through Media”. The group then presented its recently-produced video “Second Chances”, which stressed the importance of offering fresh opportunities to people with criminal records.
Finally, it was time for the MSBA “Law in Your Daily Life” video contest People’s Choice Awards. The contest, launched in January, asked youth and adults from throughout the state to submit a one- to three-minute video showing how the law impacts their lives. The 10 submitted videos were screened for the attendees, who were then asked to vote for their top three. Mark Burchick, a student at River Hill High School, took first place in the People’s Choice competition, his musical rendition of law in his life drawing both laughter and applause from the audience. Second place went to four girls, aged 10-13 years old, who attend McDonogh School, and their mock-newscast video. Third place went to students at Thomas Johnson Middle School, who showed how the law impacts middle school students.
After the announcement of the winners, a panel discussion fielded questions from the audience. Finally, the program ended with a raffle drawing, thanking the students for attending.
“Leave here today with an understanding in how the law interacts with practically everything you do in your daily life, and your daily routines,” said Howard.
Students and teachers from around the state attend breakout sessions at Law Day 2009.